What is Art Therapy?

art therapy

When you think about therapy, more than likely, you think about a traditional therapy session with someone sitting on a couch and talking to a professional.  However, therapy can include more than just talking and sometimes art can be used as a tool for a therapist to use to help their patients express their emotions.  It may sound unconventional but it’s actually very common.  Let’s talk about what art therapy is and what the benefits are.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a type of expressive therapy that has been around since the 1940s that uses the process of making art to explore and express emotions. It uses the creative process, imagery and the metaphor rather than using only words to explore, understand and heal.

The language of the unconscious mind is imagery.  By tapping into the power of the metaphor, you are utilizing the language of the unconscious mind.

Art therapists are professionally trained just like any other type of therapist. They are trained to work with people of all ages in various settings. They are able to assess their clients using art techniques and the non-verbal communication that takes place during a session.

How does it work?

Using art, both you and your therapist can have expanded access to what is happening for you.  The art work and the art process provide clues about the underlying factors that may be resulting in depression, anxiety, irritability, anger, confusion or feeling stuck.

The creation or appreciation of art is used to help people explore emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stress, boost self-esteem, and work on social skills.

Techniques used in art therapy can include:

  • Collage
  • Coloring
  • Doodling and scribbling
  • Drawing
  • Finger painting
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Sculpting
  • Working with clay

(Cherry, Kendra. “What is Art Therapy?”. Very Well Mind. November 8, 2022. www.verywellmind.com/what-is-art-therapy-2795755)

There may be some verbal communication during a session or there may not be. The therapist may give some direction on what they want the client to create or they may let them take the lead and choose what they want to do. Every session can look different based on the client’s needs, goals and preferences. Art Therapists are trained to know what is best suited for the goals and needs of each client and session.

Who is it for?

Art therapy can be used for a variety of situations or disorders that are physical or emotional including cancer or other medical diagnoses, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress, depression and relationship problems.  

Both adults and children can benefit from art therapy. For children or adults who are reluctant to open up verbally,  art therapy is a good option for them to express themselves in an alternate way.  

It can also be beneficial for couples to use this type of therapy to explore and overcome relationship challenges.  People do not have to be naturally artistic or excel in artistic activities in order for art therapy to be beneficial.

It may not be effective for everyone. Some individuals may be skeptical or just not interested in this type of creative expression and that’s okay.  With any type of therapy it’s important to find what works for you and where and how you feel most comfortable expressing yourself.


At One Heart Counseling Center we offer art therapy and know it’s a powerful way we can support individuals who may be searching for an alternate style of therapy to meet their needs.  Our staff are mostly Marriage and Family Therapists AND Registered Art Therapists, which means they have had extensive education, supervision, training, experience to use art therapeutically in sessions.


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