What is Art Therapy?
“Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance physical, mental and emotional well-being. The creative process involved in artistic self- expression helps people resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, reduce stress, and increase self-esteem and self-awareness. Art therapists are master’s-level professionals who hold degrees in art therapy and/or a related field. The educational requirements art therapists must fulfill include coursework in theories of art therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy; individual, group, and family therapy; human and creative development; assessment and evaluation; multicultural issues; research methods; ethics and standards of practice; and practicum experience in clinical and community settings. Art therapists are also trained in applying a variety of art modalities as part of assessment and treatment, including drawing, painting, sculpture, and other visual media.” – American Art Therapy Association
What is Art Therapy to me?
I think of it as a way to get energy out of the body. Let’s say I’m riding my bike and I get cut off by another bike, and the perpetrator pedals off without so much as a backward glance. My brain goes into a spin making up stories, screaming about the thoughtless cyclist; we’re about to have a fist fight in my head. Making art, consciously and unconsciously, moves things around. Making art takes my bicycle experience and allows me to vent it all out with paint or clay or knitting needles. This is a good thing because that energy, if not processed through the body in a healthy way, gets stored up and will eventually build until it is released without my permission. It, in my opinion, becomes poisonous. Of course, there are many ways to move energy out of a body, like exercise, playing music, or meditating. Art is simply one of my favorites.
As an art therapist I work with people intentionally, creating art with a specific goal in mind, and unintentionally, making art for the sake of making art and reaping the benefits. Typically, though, the creation of art relieves, releases, or reveals something. And isn’t that exciting?