Art Therapy

Art therapy has been used in a variety of traumatic experiences, including disaster relief and crisis intervention. Art therapists have worked with children, adolescents and adults after natural and man made disasters, encouraging them to make art in response to their experiences. Some suggested strategies for working with victims of disaster include: assessing for distress or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), normalising feelings, modelling coping skills, promoting relaxation skills, establishing a social support network, and increasing a sense of security and stability.

Art therapy (also known as arts therapy) is a creative method of expression used as a therapeutic technique. Art therapy originated in the fields of art and psychotherapy and may vary in definition.

Art therapy may focus on the creative art-making process itself, as therapy, or on the analysis of expression gained through an exchange of patient and therapist interaction. The psychoanalytic approach was one of the earliest forms of art psychotherapy. This approach employs the transference process between the therapist and the client who makes art. The therapist interprets the client’s symbolic self-expression as communicated in the art and elicits interpretations from the client.  Analysis of transference is no longer always a component.

Current art therapy includes a vast number of other approaches such as person-centred, cognitive, behaviour, Gestalt, narrative, Adlerian, and family. The tenets of art therapy involve humanism, creativity, reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, and personal growth.

As a mental health profession, art therapy is employed in many clinical and other settings with diverse populations. Art therapy can also be found in non-clinical settings, as well as in art studios and in creativity development workshops. Closely related in practice to marriage and family therapists and mental health counsellors, U.S. art therapists are licensed under various titles, depending upon their individual qualifications and the type of licenses available in a given state. Art therapists may hold licenses as art therapists, creative arts therapists, marriage and family therapists, counsellors of various types, psychologists, nurse practitioners, social workers, occupational therapists, or rehabilitation therapists. Art therapists may have received advanced degrees in art therapy or in a related field such as psychology in which case they would have to obtain post-master’s or post-doctorate certification as an art therapist. Art therapists work with populations of all ages and with a wide variety of disorders and diseases. Art therapists provide services to children, adolescents, and adults, whether as individuals, couples, families, or groups.

Using their evaluative and psychotherapy skills, art therapists choose materials and interventions appropriate to their clients’ needs and design sessions to achieve therapeutic goals and objectives. They use the creative process to help their clients increase insight, cope with stress, work through traumatic experiences, increase cognitive, memory and neurosensory abilities, improve interpersonal relationships and achieve greater self-fulfilment. The activities an art therapist chooses to do with clients depend on a variety of factors such as their mental state or age. Many art therapists draw upon images from resources such as ARAS (Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism) to incorporate historical art and symbols into their work with patients. Depending on the state, province, or country, the term “art therapist” may be reserved for those who are professionals trained in both art and therapy and hold a master or doctoral degree in art therapy or certification in art therapy obtained after a graduate degree in a related field. Other professionals, such as mental health counsellors, social workers, psychologists, and play therapists combine art therapy methods with basic psycho therapeutic modalities in their treatment. Therapists may better understand a client’s absorption of information after assessing elements of their artwork.

In Stella A. Stephney’s book Art Therapy With Students At Risk: Fostering Resilience and Growth through Self-Expression, Stephney states that art therapy can be used to help at-risk children.

People always search for some escape from illness and it has been found that art is one of the more common methods. Art and the creative process can aid many illnesses (cancer, heart disease, influenza, etc.). People can escape the emotional effects of illness through art making and many creative methods.[7] Sometimes people cannot express the way they feel, as it can be difficult to put into words, and art can help people express their experiences. “During art therapy, people can explore past, present and future experiences using art as a form of coping”. Art can be a refuge for the intense emotions associated with illness; there are no limits to the imagination in finding creative ways to express emotions.

Hospitals have started studying the influence of arts on patient care and found that participants in art programs have better vitals and fewer complications sleeping. Artistic influence doesn’t need to be participation in a program, but studies have found that a landscape picture in a hospital room had reduced need for narcotic pain killers and less time in recovery at the hospital.

The above is an excerpt from Wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_therapy#cite_note-Malchiodi2008-9