What is Art Therapy
Art therapy combines the creative process of art media with psychotherapy, to help participants explore and express their human experiences. Using colour, shape, line, and imagery art therapy helps folks engage with and express thoughts and feelings that may be difficult to articulate with words alone.
Art in Therapy vs.
Art as Therapy
Art making is a universal experience that people practice for reasons such as relaxation, expression, exploration, communication and more.
Art as Therapy acknowledges the positive impact that can arise simply from immersing ourselves in the creative process of art making.
While they share many of the same benefits, Art in Therapy (i.e. Art Therapy), is an evidence based therapeutic modality that involves the support and guidance of a professionally trained art and psychotherapist.
Art therapists in helping you process emotions and insights that arise during the art making process. Additionally, art therapists will guide you to engage in art directives that help you explore and process the specific challenges you are facing in your life.
Goals of Art Therapy
The goal of art therapy is to enhance the therapeutic process by supporting folks to connect with their internal experiences (i.e. emotions, thoughts, sensations, memories etc.) in a non-verbal and creative way.
In essence, Art Therapy allows individuals to externalize and become a witness to their internal experiences. Through the combined process of art making, discussion and reflection, and relationship building, Art Therapy helps individuals with problem-solving, developing insights and self-awareness, improving self-esteem, moving through difficulties, coping with stress, and enhancing interpersonal skills.
Who is Art Therapy For ?
Art therapy benefits many people including individuals, couples, families and groups from diverse backgrounds and age groups, across many community and health care settings.
Significant research exists demonstrating the efficacy of art therapy in the following areas:
• Addictions or substance use
• Neurodiversity (e.g. ADHD, autism spectrum disorder etc.)
• Coping with physical health conditions
• Depression, anxiety and mental health
• Grief and bereavement
• Trauma or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
Benefits of Art Therapy
There are many benefits to participating in counselling art therapy. Art therapy offers individuals a non-verbal way to engage with and express internal experiences (e.g. thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories etc.) that for various reasons (e.g. trauma, language, age, cognitive issues, physical health conditions etc.) my be difficult to communicate using words. There are significant benefits that can come through art-making, discussion, and reflection of artwork, including but not limited to: increased self-awareness and self-expression, connection to self and others, acceptance and agency; gaining personal insights, new ways to manage stress, discovering problem-solving skills, changing unwanted behaviours, enhancing interpersonal skills and more.
What Does An Art Therapy Session Look Like ?
At Nightingale, art therapy blends and integrates with “regular” talk therapy. For most clients, a relationship with an art therapist will begin like any other therapeutic relationship, focusing on getting to know you, building trust, respect and rapport between the counsellor and the client, and coming to an understanding about what your goals for coming to therapy are.
As your conversations evolve, art therapists have extra tools to help you along the way. For example, an art therapy session may start out like a typical talk therapy session, checking in and beginning to explore certain emotions or experiences that you are currently dealing with. At some point an art therapist may invite you to spend a few minutes using line, shape, colour or symbol to explore these words, ideas, thoughts or emotions through a new medium – art materials! This can look as simple as scribbling on a page with a marker, doodling with a pencil, playing around with splotches of colour, tearing images out of a magazine to create a collage and more.
As some clients deepen into art therapy with a professional counsellor and art therapist, there are more opportunities for evocative creative practices that arise. Like with any modality, when using art therapy, your therapist will offer choice, guidance and support, and they will work with you to discover a pace that feels good.
How does art therapy support trauma recovery?
Relaxes the Nervous System
By engaging the senses, art therapy can help relax our nervous systems, leading to improvements in areas of self-regulation, anxiety, executive functioning, acceptance, integration, feeling of control
Externalize Traumatic Experience
Research shows us that trauma is stored as a sensory experience in the brain (e.g. images, emotions, sensations) which can make it difficult to access and process through language alone. Art is a language of images, in other words – it speaks the same language of our painful memories and emotions, thereby allowing us to access, express, and process these experiences.
Increase Relaxation and Distress Tolerance
The kinesthetic and somatic nature of art-making can help our bodies relax, increasing our capacity to respond to and tolerate stress
Connect Us to Our Body
Trauma can make us feel disconnected and unsafe within our bodies and art therapy can help us reclaim safety, connection, and grounding within our bodies
Increase Feelings of Control
The exploration and manipulation of art material in the presence and guidance of an art therapist offers folks the opportunity to connect with emotions and respond to personal needs, thereby strengthening their relationship with self and increasing feelings of control
Act as a Container
The artwork created in art therapy sessions can act as a symbolic container for the difficult emotions, sensations, thoughts, and memories related to traumatic experiences. Through this holding, art can help us integrate our experiences into our life narrative.
Traumatic Experiences Can Leave Us Numb and Disconnected
Creative expression through art material can help us reconnect with a wide range of emotions including more pleasurable emotions.
Do I Need to Have Technical Abilities or Training ?
Many people wonder if they need to have previous training, skill or experience in art in order to engage in art therapy, and the answer is no! The focus of art therapy is on the process of creating rather than the finished art product. No art experience is needed for you to engage in art therapy. It is perfectly normal to feel nervous about trying art therapy and your therapist will be there to offer support and guidance as you sit with and move through these feelings. All you need is a willingness to experiment and explore!
How Does Art
Therapy Work ?
Art making of any sort – from scribbling on up — is an invitation and an opportunity to go beyond language. But why does that matter? What we know from theory and practice is that the way we articulate thing — think them, say them, draw them, feel them — influences the thing itself! This is a complicated way of saying a simple thing, which is that if you change the way you deal with a problem, or any sticky thing, you have a better chance of changing the thing. So if thinking gets tricky, it helps to talk! And if talking gets tricky, it helps to have more tools. And art works so well as one of those tools that take us beyond language.
What Can I Expect from Art Therapy
Art therapy can include a wide range of art materials and processes. When you come to Nightingale for in-person counselling and art therapy sessions, the art supplies will be provided by your therapist. For online counselling and art therapy sessions, you will need to use your own supplies – this can be as simple as a pen and paper! Therapy is a collaborative and relational process and each therapy session will be unique. Most counselling and art therapy sessions will include a combination of psychotherapy and art therapy