Art therapy: a definition

Since I have started school, studying art therapy, many people have asked me to describe exactly what art therapy is. So, here is a brief description of Art Therapy, taken from the experts – the American Art Therapy Association….

“Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. Art therapy integrates the fields of human development, visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms), and the creative process with models of counseling and psychotherapy. Art therapy is used with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, groups, and families to assess and treat the following: anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems and disorders; substance abuse and other addictions; family and relationship issues; abuse and domestic violence; social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness; trauma and loss; physical, cognitive, and neurological problems; and psychosocial difficulties related to medical illness. Art therapy programs are found in a number of settings including hospitals, clinics, public and community agencies, wellness centers, educational institutions, businesses, and private practices. Art therapists are masters level professionals who hold a degree in art therapy or a related field. Educational requirements include: theories of art therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy; ethics and standards of practice; assessment and evaluation; individual, group, and family techniques; human and creative development; multicultural issues; research methods; and practicum experiences in clinical, community, and/or other settings. Art therapists are skilled in the application of a variety of art modalities (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other media) for assessment and treatment.”(Here’s a little more information….)

How Did Art Therapy Begin?

“Visual expression has been used for healing throughout history, but art therapy did not emerge as a distinct profession until the 1940s. In the early 20th century, psychiatrists became interested in the artwork created by their patients with mental illness. At around the same time, educators were discovering that children’s art expressions reflected developmental, emotional, and cognitive growth. By mid-century, hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers increasingly began to include art therapy programs along with traditional “talk therapies,” underscoring the recognition that the creative process of art making enhanced recovery, health, and wellness. As a result, the profession of art therapy grew into an effective and important method of communication, assessment, and treatment with children and adults in a variety of settings. Currently, the field of art therapy has gained attention in health-care facilities throughout the United States and within psychiatry, psychology, counseling, education, and the arts. For more detailed information on the history of art therapy, please see AATA’s publication list for A History of Art Therapy in the United States.”

Where Do Art Therapists Work?

Art therapists work in a wide variety of settings, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Hospitals and clinics, both medical and psychiatric
  • Out-patient mental health agencies and day treatment facilities
  • Residential treatment centers
  • Halfway houses
  • Domestic violence and homeless shelters
  • Community agencies and non-profit settings
  • Sheltered workshops
  • Schools, colleges, and universities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Elder care facilities
  • Art studios
  • Private practice

The above information was taken from: www.arttherapy.orgI will keep posting interesting articles, thoughts, and other related topics to art therapy in my blog, so check back often!*Above Image: “Painting” Alex Grey 1998Check out his amazing work at: www.alexgrey.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *