What is Art Therapy?

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, ‘You mean they forget?‘”

– Howard Ikemoto

Art therapy is a recognised form of therapy that uses art as a language to express our innermost thoughts, emotions and feelings. It merges psychology and creativity in a counselling context.

Often people are concerned to try art therapy because they believe they can’t draw. But it’s not about being an artist. Rather, it’s an experience of self-discovery and tapping into our child-like nature.

As the quote above illustrates, we all used to draw at some point in our lives. Young children have no qualms about picking up a crayon and drawing whatever comes up for them. They don’t stop to consider whether they are good at it, they just do it. Art is a very natural and innate way to communicate.

There are various art therapy approaches but central to all orientations is the commitment to the art process. It is the presence of the art form that distinguishes art therapy. The emphasis is on the inherent healing qualities of the art process rather than purely on the finished art product. Art making can provide individuals with the opportunity to express themselves in creative and non-linear ways, which can deepen the experience of the self.

Art therapy works by contributing to changes in your inner world and towards the development of a more integrated sense of self, with increased self-awareness and acceptance.

Who is art therapy for?

Art therapy is suitable for people of all ages and people who may be experiencing life changes, trauma, illness or disabilities causing distress for the individual and for their family. No art experience is necessary.

What are the benefits of art therapy?

Some of the main benefits of this approach include:

  • Emotional Safety – it can offer a safe way to share their feelings in a non-confrontational manner.
  • Art Space – the actual space can offer a place to explore, experiment, test boundaries, make a mess, let go, process unconscious and conscious material and reflect it back in an acceptable manner.
  • Metaphor – the use of art materials also lends itself to metaphor and symbolic language, and can be a very powerful way to externally express their internal feelings and sensations.
  • Tangible Reference – Creating something tangible within the sessions allows the experience to be retained and referred to later in the therapeutic process if necessary.

History of Art Therapy

Did you know that the oldest known cave painting was found in Spain 64,000 years ago and was created by a Neanderthal?

Art is a part of being human. We have always used art as a medium to communicate stories, ideas and significant events throughout our existence. It comes before language, and it is a language of its own.

The term “Art Therapy” was believed to be coined by a British artist named Adrian Hill in 1942. At the time, he was suffering from tuberculosis in a hospital. He began doing art to pass the time and suggested doing art projects with his fellow patients. Through these projects, he noted the boost in morale it had on the hospital and ended up writing a book ‘Art Versus Illness’. His work was expanded upon by the artist Edward Adamson who worked with Hill to introduce this new form of therapy to patients in mental hospitals across Britain.

By the middle of the 20th century, many hospitals and mental health facilities began including art therapy programs after observing how it promoted emotional, developmental, and cognitive growth in children. The discipline continued to grow, soon becoming an important tool for the treatment of children and adults alike. Since then, art has become stable in the therapeutic field.

What Can I Expect in an Art Therapy session?

As with any form of therapy, the first session involves filling in an intake form and discussing the presenting issues that brought you to therapy.

It’s important to note that I will not be diagnosing or “fixing” you. I am simply there to help facilitate the process of your own growing self-awareness and healing. I’ll be your co-pilot, so to speak, but ultimately, you are the guide.

As much as society may tell us otherwise, we are powerful beings and we know what’s best for us. Sometimes, our inner compass gets clouded or lost along the way. I’m here to help you find that again. It’s can be a very empowering process that will tap you into your inner strength and resilience.

Usually, before we get into an art process, we begin with a meditation to clear away the busyness of the mind. Following meditation, we can use whatever art supplies we have to see what has transpired at that particular moment, expressing and exploring ourselves through the shapes and colours that flow forth from crayons or pencils.

I will give you a few minutes in silence, or with music, to draw quietly. Once you’re done, we will discuss the process art-making and the artwork together.

How can I book an Art Therapy session?

You can email me here and I will get back to you shortly.