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  • Writer's pictureJoyce Low (Counsellor and Art Therapist)

Art therapy for well-being

What is art therapy

Art therapy is a mental health profession that can enrich the lives of individuals, families, and communities through creative art-making. The art therapist combines applied psychological theory and the use of artistic methods to treat mental health conditions while enhancing well-being. Art therapy is based on the idea that creative expression can promote healing and mental well-being.

Art therapy is therefore used to help individuals interpret, express, and resolve their emotions and thoughts. Individuals work with an art therapist to explore their emotions, process experiences that are causing them distress, and use art-making to help them find resolutions and meaning-making.

What art therapy is not

An art therapy session differs from an art class in that an art class is focused on teaching techniques or creating an end product, whereas art therapy is more about allowing for exploration and processing of inner experiences.

In art therapy, the individual focuses on their own perceptions, imagination and feelings. Thus they are encouraged to engage creatively to articulate their inner world rather than producing aesthetically-pleasing artworks. As such, artistic inclination is not a pre-requisite in art therapy.

Benefits of art therapy

Art therapy when facilitated by a professional art therapist can effectively support personal and relational treatment goals. Due to its’ sensorial nature, art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, promote self-esteem and self-awareness, encourage emotional resilience, facilitate insight, build social skills, resolve conflicts and reduce distress.

Art therapy also engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are different from verbal articulation alone. Kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic expressions facilitate alternative modes of communication, circumventing the limitations of language and verbal processing. Finding a voice through visual and symbolic expression can be immensely empowering and transformative.

What to expect in an art therapy session

The goal of art therapy is to use the creative process to help with self-expression and gain personal insight while developing new coping skills.

Some art therapy activities may include:

  • Collage

  • Coloring

  • Doodling and scribbling

  • Drawing

  • Finger painting

  • Painting

  • Photography

  • Sculpting

  • Working with clay

As the individual creates art in the art therapy session, they may be encouraged to analyze what they have made and how it makes them feel. Through exploring their art, themes may be discovered and conflicts that may be affecting thoughts, emotions and behaviors may be resolved. All it takes is openness to suspend judgement and a readiness to experiment through play and curiosity.

Individual and group sessions are available. Contact us for more details.


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