What is Art Therapy? Art Helps Adult Day Participants

by Art Therapy Counseling Graduate Joanie Chiang

Work of Art

Work of Art

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art materials such as paints, clay and markers.  Art therapy combines traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with an understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process, especially the affective properties of the different art materials. Art therapists are trained to recognize the nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are communicated within the creative process, symbols and metaphor, which might be difficult to express in words or in other modalities. Using their skills in evaluation and psychotherapy, they choose materials and interventions appropriate to their clients’ needs and design sessions to achieve therapeutic goals and objectives.

Who Can Benefit? As a mental health profession, art therapy uses art media and the creative process to help in areas such as, but not limited to: fostering self expression, enhancing coping skills, managing stress, and strengthening a sense of self.  Art therapy has provided mental health treatment for clients who have experienced trauma, grief and loss, depression, chronic illness, substance abuse, and more.

Art making is seen as an opportunity to express oneself imaginatively, authentically, and spontaneously, an experience that, over time, can lead to personal fulfillment, emotional reparation, and transformation. This view also holds that the creative process, in and of itself, can be a health-enhancing and growth producing experience. Groups and Individual Settings: There are therapeutic values to each setting.  An art therapy group can promote social interactions with others and foster a sense of  belonging. One can also gain authentic feedback and positive support from the group members as well as from the group leader. An individual setting offers participant one-on-one attention, as well as more  attentive art-making or verbal exchanges on presented personal issues, such as depressive thoughts, sense of loss or concerns with death, etc