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Art Therapy

The American Art Therapy Association 

defines art therapy


Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.


A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being. Art therapy practice requires knowledge of visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms) and the creative process, as well as of human development, psychological, and counseling theories and techniques.


During individual and/or group sessions art therapists elicit their clients’ inherent capacity for art making to enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Research supports the use of art therapy within a professional relationship for the therapeutic benefits gained through artistic selfexpression and reflection for individuals who experience illness, trauma, and mental health problems and those seeking personal growth.

Art Therapy vs.

Art as Therapy


As defined by Cathy Malchiodi, Phd, LPCC, LPAT in Arts and Health (2013), Art as therapy embodies the idea that art making is, in and of itself, therapeutic and that the creative process is a growth-producing experience. However, art as therapy is a pretty close match to many other non-therapy approaches, mainly in the realm of art teaching. For example, art education with children with disabilities, community art programs for groups, shelters or neighborhoods with economic or social challenges, and art studios for people with mental illness seem to have similar goals and objectives and are pretty difficult to differentiate from art as therapy in many cases. These programs and their practitioners are effective change-agents in their own right and often produce the same outcomes as those programs defined as art as therapy. Art psychotherapy embraces the idea that art is a means of symbolic communication and expresses personality, emotions and other aspectsof human experience. In essence, art expressions are used to enhance verbal exchanges between the therapist and the client in this approach. As it turns out, providing art psychotherapy also often involves an additional credential such as a mental health counseling, social work, psychologist or marriage and family therapy license; this is because most states regulate the use of the term psychotherapy' via licensure."


Dr. Malchiodi goes on to explain how research illustrates the positive impact of art therapy on the integration of mind and body for holistic health- enhancing benefits. The field of psychotherapy is finally embracing the focus of interpersonal connection and attachment in working with clients. The therapeutic relationship between client and therapist, in addition to art processes and tools are essential and very purposeful when used in the healing process with art therapy.


Click here to read the full article on

Malchiodi, Cathy (2013). Defining art therapy in the twenty-first century

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