What is Art Therapy?

As a practicing artist and art therapist, I whole-heartedly believe in the healing power of the creative process and recognize how regularly engaging in it sustains you. That being said, making art on your own is not the same as participating in art therapy.

Personal art making vs. art therapy

While making art on your own is often a meditative and sometimes cathartic experience that feels good, it doesn’t provide the same benefits as art therapy.  

 

Art therapy is a way to see yourself and your situation or obstacles more clearly and objectively, and I'll help guide you through it. As a master-level professional art therapist, I can provide critical support to help you safely move toward the center of yourself where transformation and healing begins.  Through this process, I'll provide guidance as you access your own answers.  Together, we'll shine a light on your strengths and abilities while pointing out opportunities for growth. 

 

Art therapy is a non-judgmental process that externalizes issues and strengths so that you can clearly see all parts of yourself and any obstacles.  As a result, we'll collaborate on ways you can cope, problem-solve and heal more effectively along the way. 

Art therapy in practice

To use a metaphor, imagine that you create a sculpture that depicts you in relation to an issue you feel challenged by.  This sculpture is made of interlinking pieces, most of which fit comfortably together but could benefit from some adjustments.  However, there is one ill-fitting piece -- the piece representing the issue. You remove this ill-fitting piece to get a new perspective of it, and begin to see it more objectively.

 

While working with it, you discover that it is not as problematic as you thought. It could actually benefit you if just one of its edges was modified, allowing a better connection to the whole sculpture. As you work to integrate this piece with the whole sculpture, you decide that the connection needs reinforcement. You discover some new resources (art materials) of tape and string that achieve this goal.  

 

Through this process -- along with the therapist’s observations, questions and reflections -- you suddenly realize that the tape and string are symbols for a previously overlooked resource in your life that makes addressing the issue possible.  The therapist does not ‘interpret’ your thoughts, but helps you process your understanding of your work so you can come to a deeper understanding of yourself and create an effective problem-solving strategy for the issue.

 

Clients are often amazed by the depth of insight they discover through their own creative process. It always provides information that wouldn’t have been discovered through talk therapy alone.

 

For more information about art therapy, see the definition of the profession by the American Art Therapy Association.

© 2018 Christine Makarewicz-Villaire, LCPC, ATR-BC