When I tell people I’m an art therapist, often I get the playful question: “What’s that? A therapist for artists?” Art therapists are mental health professionals who have attained a Master’s-level degree in psychological and counseling theory with extensive emphasis on the therapeutic use of art making. We are trained to work with people of all ages and skill level with art materials, who present with a wide range of concerns. Unlike traditional art making, art therapy is accessible to all people regardless of artistic expertise. It is for those with strong art backgrounds as well as those whose last creative endeavor was drawn with crayons way back in elementary school. Artistic talent is not a requirement for enjoying the many benefits of art therapy!
As long as people have been on this earth, we have turned to the art making process as a way of describing and making sense of personal and cultural experiences. Art gives a voice where words sometime can’t. It helps us speak our most inner truth. The creative process offers a way to put form to feeling; to externalize blocked and mixed-up thoughts and emotions so self-exploration, transformation and healing can occur. We begin to feel in control of our process rather than controlled by it. The insight that comes of art making offers a way to deepen our relationship to ourselves and the world around us, and thus live more fulfilling lives.
While traditional art making focuses solely on the final product, art therapy adds emphasis to the creative process on the journey to finished form. As a trained art therapist, my role is to serve as a guide for my clients on their path to self-discovery. This may come in the way of suggesting materials to work with, teaching you how to use unfamiliar materials, problem solving, and assisting you in unfolding personal meaning from the creative process and imagery. I support you in accessing your own inner wisdom and strengthening the relationship between you and your art, so together we can discover its unique significance for you. I do not interpret your artwork or know more about the art you create than you do. I embrace an attitude of deep respect and profound curiosity, assist you in doing the same, and from there we unfold meaning together. By fortifying the relationship between you and your creation, an awakening process occurs, allowing you to experience a new, fresh perspective. Light is shed on the past, stuckness transforms into possibilities, doorways open. Art adds a new visual language to existing verbal language thus enriching your self-expression. Engaging in this safe and non-threatening approach to working with images and symbols, my clients are able to tap into deeper and often hidden material that has been disguised through behavioral or verbal defenses faster than simply talking about a problem allows.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting upon the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.
- reduce stress, anxiety and worry
- express difficult or confusing thoughts and emotions
- release and heal trauma
- tolerate distress
- cope with illness, discomfort and pain
- improve self-observation and self-awareness skills
- become fully embodied by integrating emotional, cognitive, sensory and spiritual aspects of self
- find inner peace, relaxation and calm
- strengthen intimacy, intrapersonal and interpersonal connection
- foster self-esteem and self-worth
- adjust to change and/or loss (i.e, death, health, job,divorce and/or separation, birth of sibling,…)
- cope with grief
- resolve identity issues
- resolve conflict
- transform addiction
- have a safe and appropriate outlet for exploring fear, guilt, pain, hostility, rage and anger
- improve problem solving skills
- make informed decisions about the future
- experiment with change before risking making achange inreality
- gain new insight and perspective
- develop communication skills
- control impulses
- reduce harmful behavior
- find joy, meaning and purpose in life