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Art Therapy is an evidence based form of psychotherapy, for people of any ability, that utilizes and combines the therapeutic qualities of art materials, and therapeutic benefits of creativity, creating and expressing. Art Therapists aid clients to engage in a process of personal exploration and visual expression of their inner experiences to aid them to come to new insights, develop potential and heal psychological distress.
Research has shown that Art Therapy can help so many kinds of people facing many kinds of challenges. Research has shown Art Therapy has therapeutic use with people living with mental health challenges, disabilities, chronic illness and pain, war and combat trauma, complex trauma, criminal justice issues, grief and loss, and the list most likely goes on. Below I will list some of the research findings that I have come across and been inspired by. The list is not limited to these...
Art therapy can be a gentler way of engaging in therapy for those who have experienced trauma. Art therapy offers a way to "triangulate" the relationship between the client and therapist, which offers a way to reduce the tension of being in therapy. The relaxing properties of some art materials can also offer a way to self-sooth. Art Therapy accesses different areas of the brain, than just talking alone. These areas can be where non-verbal sensory-based trauma memories can be stored and processing these through engagement in art materials can help to heal developmental trauma through neuroplasticity.
Art Therapy research in mental health has shown again and again that Art Therapy builds skills in emotional regulation. This may be because art making promotes self-awareness, sensory and bodily awareness, self understanding and self compassion. Art making is considered by many Art Therapists as a form of mindfulness.
Art Therapy is shown to help people reduce and/or cope better with chronic pain. Art Therapy aids help people to develop a compassionate relationship with themselves and their illness and/or pain, which is an vital aspect of chronic illness management.
Gaining Insight & Self Discovery
Art making bypasses our verbal defense mechanisms and helps us to more fully experience and know ourselves. Art making is inherently an act which engages our emotions, values and identity. Mental health consumers who have written or contributed to Art Therapy research consistently report that an important aspect of Art Therapy to them is the ability to engage in a process of self discovery.
Art making has research to show that it can reduce cortisol (stress hormones) in the body after just one 45 minute session.
Who is it for?
Art Therapy is used for a range of purposes and conditions in a range of settings. Art Therapists work in hospitals, schools, rehabs, community centers, detention centers, with all kinds of people and life experiences. I have seen that Art Therapy is even being used in leadership training.
Art Therapists also stress the importance that Art Therapy is about the process of expressing, experimenting and exploring. Making a finished "art piece" is not the goal.
There is no pre-requisites at all and Art Therapy is for every ability.