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 focusses on the use of art materials and the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist.
Art therapy can be delivered either in individual or group format. 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.
How can it help?
People sometimes have difficulties to express 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.
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.
For more information on how art therapy can help children click here.
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 yourself that creativity can relieve stress, help think clearly or relax. You may consider yourself creative or an artist and experienced the therapeutic effects of your creativity, for example, taking photographs for fun, paint a picture or scribble at the corner of your notepad.
For more information on how are 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 therapeutic 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, 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. However, the role of an art therapist is not to intrude, but to be non-judgemental and develop rapport. This process can help understand clients' own feelings and give them a means of expression.
Art Therapy and Art Psychotherapy refers to the same profession.
To find out more about the Art Therapist click here.
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.
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 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 during Covid-19: all clients who see the art theapist online, keep their artwork safe at home.
Is art therapy confidential?
The specifics of what is discussed in therapy and the artwork made will be treated as confidential.
The art therapist can only offer partial confidentiality to children due to their age. It is important to be clear that if the child leads the art therapist to believe that they or someone else were at risk of harm the therapist would have a responsibility to pass this information on.
What is said and done during the session remains confidential unless the art therapist is lead 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.