Introduction to Art Therapy

The most common perception of therapy is two or more people sitting in a room and talking but do you know that it could be more than that? Psychologists often have their clients work with adult coloring books or mandalas but imagine a whole category of therapy based on art alone!

What is Art Therapy?

“Art Therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”

-American Art Therapy Association

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy and it is often considered to be a hybrid of both art and psychology as it involves using art with psychological techniques to help people in different aspects of their lives, mainly mental and behavioral. During the therapy, issues of the clients are resolved via the artwork created by the client himself/herself or art pieces from third parties.

Who Performs Art Therapy?

This particular form of therapy can only be performed by an art therapist who is registered and credentialed from an accredited institution. You can find art therapists in rehabilitation care units, senior centers, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, assisted living centers and schools. It is not commonly known but art therapists often work in crisis centers, forensic institutions, detention centers, clinical research facilities, and wellness centers.

Who Should Consider Taking Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a mental health profession that focuses on improving the quality of life of person. People from all age groups and background can benefit from this. You can benefit from art therapy if you match one of the following criteria and even if you do not, you should still look into it as it has proven to be effective.

  • People who are suffering from PTSD or recurring negative emotions due to a past event in life.
  • Anyone who is afflicted with serious health conditions like cancer, brain injury, diabetes, heart disease, aging conditions or dementia.
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Stress disorders
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Couples that have emotional or intimacy issues
  • Substance dependency
  • A person looking to increase self-esteem

Commonly Used Techniques

Each art therapist has his/her own detailed plan that is used in the therapy. You need to understand that every art therapist operates differently i.e. they use different spiritual, psychological and artistic theories in the sessions. They have full understanding of the concepts of art and psychology which allows them to combine theories to produce the desired result. If you take art therapy, you might find yourself doing:

  • Making cards
  • Making pottery
  • Finger painting
  • Doodling
  • Carving
  • Making collages
  • Sculpting
  • Drawing
  • Scribbling
  • Painting
  • Using textiles
  • Using molding clay

The main purpose of art therapist is to make the client self-aware, improve social skills, delve into and solve emotional issues and recognize and deal with emotions. Art therapy does not require the person to have any prior artistic experience. Art therapy enables a person to open up in a non-verbal manner and achieve therapeutic effect at the same time. The focus of art therapy is not on the brilliance of the art work produced by to decipher what is hidden in it. Art therapists use their expertise to decipher the symbols and messages hidden in the art piece produced by the client.


[1] American Art Therapy Association (2017, June). Retrieved from

[2] (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] Start Your Art Therapy Career. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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