What is Art Therapy?

Do you sometimes think that words just can’t express how you feel?

Sometimes language can be so limiting. We can have such strong emotions, yet it can be so hard let someone else know what you’re going through. It can be hard to work things  out for yourself, let alone share it with someone else.

Have you heard the expression ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’? It means that an image can communicate lots of complex ideas and feelings. And that’s how art therapy works. It can help you to express feelings and thoughts in a safe, non-judgemental environment.

But what is Art Therapy exactly?

Art Therapy is like a session with a counsellor, only you get to make art if you want to. It can either be one on one sessions with just an art therapist, or you can join an art therapy group.

You might be offered pencils, paint, collage, clay, textas or pastels (among other things). Your art therapist might suggest a topic, or might just offer you art materials. In general, art therapists don’t analyse what you create but they may ask you questions about your work which might help you to understand your emotions a little better.

Art therapists have a Masters degree and over 750 hours of experience before they’re allowed to practice as a therapist and register as a professional.

What if I think I can’t draw or paint?

You don’t have to have much experience making art, and you won’t be judged on your art making. Art therapy focuses far more on the process of making, rather than the finished product. Art therapy is suitable for anyone, of any age, no matter what you’re dealing with.

How can art therapy help?

In loads of different ways! Such as:

  • helping you to express feelings that are too difficult to talk about
  • stimulate your imagination and creativity
  • help you to develop healthy coping skills
  • increase self esteem and confidence
  • clarify issues and concerns
  • increases communication skills
  • assists with the development of motor skills and physical co-ordination
  • assist thinking processes and problem solving
  • ability to identify feelings and blocks to emotional expression and personal growth
  • opens up an opportunity for self awareness and reflection
Where is art therapy used?

Art therapy is used to help lots of different kinds of people. It’s often used in:

  • adolescent health
  • disability care
  • hospitals
  • aged care
  • eating disorder clinics
  • referrals from psychologists/counsellors
  • private practice
  • psychiatric units
  • cancer/oncology units
  • palliative care
  • schools
  • drug & alcohol rehabilitation and detoxification units
  • maternal and child health centres

Want more info about mental illness and recovery? Make sure you check out our Mental Health section.

Getting help

If you think that art therapy could be useful for you or someone you know, check out these websites for more information:

Art Therapy- Australia & New Zealand
Melbourne Art Therapy

Click here for a list of Support Services.