When is Art Therapy Used?

The benefits of artistic expression and reflection make it possible for many types of people to respond well to art therapy (AT). AT is provided by mental health professionals in a number of different settings and situations. Utilizing art therapeutically can assist patients who are physically or mentally ill or who have experienced different kinds of trauma or crisis. Both the creation of art and reflecting on the artistic process can provide help to patients.

Some of the Benefits of Using Art as Therapy

art-thearpyAccording to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) some of the benefits of using art therapeutically include stress reduction and management, improving interpersonal skills, managing other behaviors that may be causing problems, learning to resolve conflicts and achieving insights into yourself. All of these are seen as part of the overall positive and pleasurable experience of making art, a process that can be enjoyed by young children, youth, adults and the elderly.

Some Populations Who Can Particularly Benefit

Trained art therapists provide opportunities for art-making to a variety of different patients whom they believe will benefit from art as part of the healing process. These therapists are trained in artistic techniques as well as human development and counseling and psychotherapy for individuals, families and groups. You might find art therapists functioning in schools, hospitals, psychiatric clinics, prisons or juvenile detention centers, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes or even private practice. The AATA collaborates with many different kinds of partner organizations that reflect such wide parameters of practice. For example, they work with the American Association of School Administrators, Americans for the Arts and the Mental Health Liaison Group, just to name a few.

The types of patients who can benefit from art as therapy are as diverse as the list of practice settings might indicate. Art therapists have been known to work with survivors of natural disasters or those who have gone through other forms of trauma such as abuse or military combat. It appears that part of the reason this type of therapy can work well for someone who has gone through terrible stress is that it gives patients a way to express themselves non-verbally. Therapists also work with patients suffering from various type of illness, including cancer and brain injuries. Art therapists can also work beneficially with people who suffer from depression and other mood disorders. They can work with elderly patients suffering from dementia, and with children on the autism spectrum. The therapy can be beneficial across a wide range of patients, helping them to reduce their stress levels or to improve their cognitive, social or memory skills. Therapists can use a wide range of artistic media to help their patients achieve their goals including drawing, painting and sculpture.

Although it’s still a relatively young field, acceptance and understanding of the usefulness of AT seems to be growing. Different arts therapy groups across the country collaborate together and there is a national credentialing body that accredits trained art therapists who generally hold a graduate degree in the field. Because making art is such a universal practice, people of all ages and in many different situations can benefit from art therapy.