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Images © Edit Biro-Hannah 2019

About Art Therapy

Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media and talking to express, communicate and address emotional issues that may be confusing and distressing. The art therapist accompanies and supports the child, young person, adult or elderly as they learn to use the materials for expression.

The overall aim of Art Therapy is to effect change and growth on a personal level. The relationship in Art Therapy is sometimes referred to as triangular, a three-way process that focuses on the use of art materials and the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist. 

Art therapy can be delivered either in individual or group formats. The sessions usually take place weekly at a set time and involve making art alongside a trained art therapist and/or group member in art therapy groups in a safe and facilitating environment. Throughout this process, a therapeutic relationship of trust is built.

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How can it help?


People sometimes have difficulties expressing the feelings and thoughts they struggle with. At times, there are no words or it is too hard to say. Art therapy is not a magic cure and is not always easy. But it can help with expression through an alternative medium, and with the help of the therapist, increase understanding, even in the very young.‚Äč

At some point in our lives, we have all experienced the therapeutic benefits of art. As a child, you may have enjoyed making drawings, collages, making sandcastles or playing with clay. Children have limited vocabulary and art therapy can help them express their feelings through art and play as this is their natural way of communication. 

Sometimes people think that art therapy is for children only. However, art therapy is widely used with adults in a wide variety of settings. As an adult, you may have recognised that creativity can relieve stress, help think clearly or relax. You may consider yourself creative or an artist and experience the therapeutic effects of your creativity, for example, taking photographs for fun, painting a picture or scribbling at the corner of your notepad. 


For more information on how art therapy can help adults click here


What is an art therapist?


An art therapist is someone who understands the art process but has also been trained in psychotherapeutic skills. Art therapists usually have a background in the arts and have skills in using a wide variety of media from traditional visual arts, sculpture, textiles, and performance art to computer graphics. However, not all art therapists have backgrounds in the arts, some may come from psychology, humanities or education. A common misconception is that they analyse pictures and thereby analyse the client. In art therapy, both verbal and non-verbal communication is used to aid the psychotherapeutic process. However, the role of an art therapist is not to intrude, but to be non-judgemental, develop a therapeutic relationship, and a safe and secure environment to explore issues. This process can help understand clients' own feelings and give them a means of expression. 


Art Therapy and Art Psychotherapy refer to the same profession.  


To find out more about the Art Therapist click here.

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Who is art therapy suitable for?


Art therapy is suitable for all ages. Art therapists work with children, young people, adults and the elderly who may have a wide range of mental health difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses. These include emotional, behavioural or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, life-limiting or neurological conditions and physical illnesses.

Art therapists work in a wide variety of settings and client groups. Clients need to have a willingness to explore their problems through the use of art materials within the therapeutic relationship. 



Do you need to be good at art?


The simple answer is no. Art therapy is not a recreational activity or an art lesson, though sessions can be enjoyable. Clients do not have to be good at art or have expertise in using art materials, but they must have a willingness to explore their issues through art-making. Although, people may want to develop their artistic skills and enjoy creating aesthetically pleasing artwork. 


The art therapist can help you learn to use the art materials for self-expression.

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What art medium is used in art therapy for adults and children and adolescents, Berkshire United Kingdom

What art medium is used in art therapy?


It depends on the art therapist what materials are made available in the therapy room and it can be wide-ranging. A wide variety of traditional visual art and craft materials are usually available in an art therapy room. Practitioners who work with children may have a wide range of toys and books available, as well as a tablet or a computer for digital art. There is no prescribed way to make images. Image-making depends on what the person would like to communicate and what artistic medium they see appropriate to use to express the meaning of their feelings. It could be through play, poetry, prose, or collage as well as a picture or a piece of performance art, video, installation or photo manipulation. 


Covid-19: During the pandemic, art therapy practice has moved online and clients use their own art materials that are available to them.

What happens to the artwork?


It is beneficial for the artwork to be stored away safely each week with the therapist. But the client can take the artwork away if they choose to. When therapy ends, the client chooses what they would like to do with anything that they have made. Any work left with the therapist will be shredded or broken down after a month.


Artwork storage: all clients who see the Art Therapist online keep their artwork safe at home.   

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Is art therapy confidential for adults and children and adolescents, Berkshire United Kingdom

Is art therapy confidential?


The specifics of what is discussed in therapy and the artwork made will be treated as confidential. 


What is said and done during the session remains confidential unless the art therapist is led to believe that the client or someone else was at risk of harm. In such cases, the therapist has a legal responsibility to pass this information on to other professionals, for example, the client’s GP, and together they would decide how to proceed to ensure safety.


Art Therapists are supervised to ensure good practice is maintained which means that, with your consent, the artwork will be anonymised and shared with a supervisor.