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Art Therapy

What Is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active artmaking, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.


Art therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce, and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change. 

Art therapists are master-level clinicians who work with people of all ages across a broad spectrum of practice. Guided by ethical standards and scope of practice, their education and supervised training prepares them for culturally proficient work with diverse populations in a variety of settings. Honoring individuals’ values and beliefs, art therapists work with people who are challenged with medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth.

From the American Art Therapy Association’s website:

Art Therapy Is Effective,
This Is How Art Therapy Can Help:

Through integrative methods, art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone. Kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic opportunities invite alternative modes of receptive and expressive communication, which can circumvent the limitations of language. Visual and symbolic expression gives voice to experience, and empowers individual, communal, and societal transformation.  

Art therapy uniquely helps people improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions. It helps foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivates emotional resilience, promotes insight, enhances social skills, reduces conflicts and distress, and advances societal and ecological change.


Taken from:


What to Expect
In An Art Therapy Session?

Art therapy sessions are varied in structure, but most often they include a brief warm-up activity that may include an art prompt. A variety of art materials are offered for a client to use for openly shared therapeutic goals. In discussion with the client, the therapist suggests a helpful art making activity to directly support established goals in art therapy. Artworks are non-verbal ways to support and compliment talk therapy. The art therapist works with the client to support their visual process. The art therapist looks for emerging meanings, stories, or metaphors to enrich therapy. The artworks may visualize a person’s story, strengths, or struggles. Mindfulness activities and varied forms of expressive art such as sound or somatic movements may be integrated into an art therapy session. Before the session ends, the client and therapist often share the artworks made, again with therapeutic goals in mind. After most sessions, clients take their artworks home. Sometimes the artworks are left in secure/private storage with the art therapist until the artwork is completed and brought home. 

What to Look For
In A Good Art Therapist

Art therapists establish safety and trust while showing sensitivity, empathy, emotional openness, stability, patience, and an ability to share insight into human behavior. A good art therapist has a firm knowledge of artistic media with curiosity about nuances within art processes. An insightful art therapist has the ability to understand how a client’s creative art reflects learned behaviors, emotional responses, or cognitive thoughts unique to each person. They know the importance of enjoyment and evaluate artworks without judgment, always asking the client’s view of their work to respect and honor them in alliance and trust. Art therapists welcome non-verbal responses in therapy and do not need to talk about issues to make them real. Art making as therapy is highly valued as a complex and effective healing process.


Renee Vanderstelt


CMHC Art Therapist

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