by Dr. Becky Spelman on 18/05/2019
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy draws on this natural tendency, using various forms of art as a therapeutic technique. The therapist works with their clients in making art that helps them to express themselves, to understand their own needs, and to move forward in a more positive way with a greater degree of personal insight. It also draws on a range of therapeutic techniques, including cognitive behaviouralism, family therapy, and more. It is rooted in research that has been carried out over many years, from the earliest work in psychotherapy to the current time.
Many different art techniques can be used in art therapy, such as painting, drawing, sculpture, general ceramic work, crafting, and so on. On meeting their patient, the therapist facilities the creative process, helping them to deal with the stress they experience, to gain insight into their own feelings and needs, to process any trauma they may have experienced in the past, and to improve a range of skills; the client’s individual needs guide the process.
This approach works in a range of settings. Art therapy is often offered in schools, and in a variety of institutions, including hospitals, prisons, community centres, geriatric centres, private clinics and more. Art therapists work with patients from childhood to old age, with those with mental illness and those who do not have a mental illness, and with patients with a variety of levels of intellectual ability.
It can also help people with a wide range of psychological, psychiatric, and learning issues. For example: art therapy can help people of any age process and recover from trauma; it can aid recovery, pain management, and coping in people who are living with serious and/or chronic illness; it can help patients to manage mental illness; and it can assist people in achieving behavioural change.
Furthermore, it can be extremely helpful to people who sometimes struggle to communicate in words, such as many patients with conditions such as autism, elderly people with dementia, young children who may not have the vocabulary to discuss how they are feeling, and those who feel marginalised in society for one reason or another.
How does it work?
Art therapy may be offered to patients on its own, or as part of a targeted treatment plan incorporating a range of other modalities, possibly also involving medication.
Art therapy may be offered as a relatively short-term response to a situation, such as in the context of disaster or trauma (for example, it might be used in a school population when the students have experienced the tragic death of a classmate, or another traumatic event). It may also be offered on a longer-term basis, such as in the case of someone who is working to achieve behavioural change, who is living with a chronic illness or a condition such as an eating disorder, or who is engaging in a rehabilitation programme, as may be the case with prisoners or people undergoing treatment for addiction.
Art therapy functions by giving patients the opportunity to express themselves creatively and symbolically, and also by giving them a sense of empowerment and identity, as someone who can create change in their immediate environment, with the use of the materials employed in their art.
While art therapy can be carried out in a one-on-one environment, with just the therapist and their patient, it is often very effective in group settings too, especially when patients are dealing with similar issues. It is an extremely flexible therapeutic approach, which can be tailored specifically to the needs of the individual or of the group.
Chambala, A (2008). “Anxiety and Art Therapy: Treatment in the Public Eye”. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. 25 (4): 187–189. doi:10.1080/07421656.2008.10129540.
Edwards, David (2004). Art Therapy. London: SAGE. ISBN 978-0761947509.
Handler, Leonard; Thomas, Antoinette D. (2013). Drawings in Assessment and Psychotherapy: Research and Application Routledge. ISBN 9781136273841.
How can I get Art Therapy in London?
If you would like to talk to someone about art therapy, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 3887 1738 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.