What is Art Therapy and the two major forms of it? At the very basics, Art therapy is the use of artistic expression through the use of art materials to improve someone’s life. While this definition is very broad, so are the ways art therapy is used around the world, and in different settings within your own community. Here are the two major methods in which art is used, and some of the places you will find it practiced.
The first use of art therapy is in the simple therapeutic action of creating art. When someone becomes involved in the creative process, whether using paints, ceramics, or even crayons and paper, they can release inner tension and feel joy in their ability to create. For some people this is the most liberating form of therapy since their other avenues of expression seem to be closed off. This can include autistic children, very young children, and seniors suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
In many of these situations their art work may not resemble anything spectacular, but just the act of being busy, feeling productive, and having fun can help remove trauma, and give them new confidence. This is not limited in use to persons with communications challenges, but is beneficial to almost everyone. The process of being creative takes our minds away from other troubles, and gives us a break from our troubles.
The second use of art therapy is both creative, and also used as a form of communication. The therapist may lead the patient through some directions, or life situations and then ask them to draw or paint a picture describing how this feels to them. For persons with communications issues this can be very liberating. While they may be unable to express their feelings, needs, and problems by the spoken or written word, they may be able to create pictures which relays the message, even if they are poorly drawn.
This form of therapy and communication is used extensively with younger children, autistic children and adults, and again with people suffering from strokes, Alzheimer’s, or other conditions limiting their communication ability. Putting the paint brush in their hands allows them to communicate in a new way, and to work on getting their message understood.
What is art therapy’s benefit to the therapist? Without the communication made possible by the drawing and pictures, they may never be able to determine the person’s needs and problems. With this feedback they can work with their patients, and then monitor their changes by having new pictures drawn at various times. Art therapy opens the door for both therapeutic activity, and enhanced communication, both which are important tools for any therapist. Art therapy is most commonly practiced by trained psychologists and counselors, but you may find other therapists using the practice, too. When you inquire about art therapy, always make sure you understand what their qualifications are before starting the sessions. It is an important tool, but best used by qualified people.