About Art Therapy
What is art therapy?
Art making and other creative activities engage us in profound ways that can show us a path to healing we did not know was available. When we make art and images, we literally gain perspective on parts of ourselves, enabling us to become more aware, increase our understanding of our inner world, and move through what may be difficult to an easier, more accepting place within ourselves. In art therapy, a person uses images, art materials, and the art process to express and explore emotions and feelings, resolve challenging situations, problem solve, and practice new ways of doing things. While many professionals may use art with their clients, to qualify as a Registered Art Therapist, I attended a program with specialized art therapy training approved by the American Art Therapy Association and completed 1000 hours of supervised practice of art therapy with clients after getting my master's degree.
Do I have to be an artist to use art therapy? Definitely not!
You do not need to have any special abilities or skills to benefit from using art making to work through challenges you are experiencing. In fact many adults I work with haven't picked up a pencil to draw or do any other art project since elementary school! And yet, most people find the experience refreshing, effective in getting to the heart of the matter, surprisingly reflective of their lives, and even fun. Many clients reconnect with their creativity, finding they not only like what they make, they also feel more alert, alive, and relaxed from the process.
Benefits of Making Art
Beyond using art to work through challenging life circumstances, art has the capacity to promote wellbeing. Art making can help manage life stresses through experiencing relaxation, being more fully in the present moment, and increasing our ability to appreciate simple pleasures by connecting us more deeply with our senses. When making art in a supportive environment, one can experience compassion and self-acceptance that quiets all the tension and anxiety of our busy lives. At the very least, art provides a way to put our difficulties away for a time, allowing more space for just enjoying life.
What happens in an art therapy session?
Many adults find it helpful to first talk about what is concerning them before making art about it, but it isn't necessary to do so. I can help guide you in how to use art to explore a particular feeling or situation, if you feel you need help getting started. I have a wide range of art supplies to use ranging from simple items like crayons and markers to more exotic materials you may not have experimented with yet. Generally, we begin with whatever materials you feel drawn to and see where that leads. Sometimes, I may suggest you try a particular process or medium, as it might allow you to see and experience a situation differently than you have in the past. And we can spend time looking at and talking about what you made, if that feels useful for you. You can work on a different piece each session or work on the same piece over time; it depends on what you want from therapy, where you need support, and what you are drawn to doing.
Art Therapy with Children
Children need little prompting to engage in making art, and often instinctively know how to use art to express their feelings or what they may be struggling with. Because children are not "little adults" who have the same abilities as grown ups, they often are better able to express themselves through pictures and play rather than using words. So, art therapy can be especially effective in helping children with a wide variety of challenges including traumatic events, school issues, changes in the family, difficulty coping with their feelings, and behavior problems. Using art therapy and play therapy, I have helped over 100 neglected and abused children with severe behavioral difficulties over six years. I have seen art therapy play a key role in a child's healing process - helping him or her to make significant progress toward a healthier life.