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Art Therapy: What to expect and who can benefit?

In a world where adult coloring books are becoming more and more popular, it’s important to make the distinction that art therapy does not happen through a coloring book. While there is evidence that repetitive movements and coloring can provide short-term relaxation and stress reduction, this still is not the same as Art Therapy.

Art therapy is a mental health profession facilitated by a master’s level clinician or higher who has knowledge of visual art, the creative process and psychotherapy. The American Art Therapy Association says “art therapy an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, communities through active art-making, creative process and applied psychological theory and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”

More simply, art therapy is what it’s name signifies- therapy merged with art. Within this relationship deep work is done, which can simply not happen from just an adult coloring book alone! Art therapy is used as a tool within traditional talk therapy. Many times people don’t have the words for what they are going through, and art therapy can help to unblock repressed feeling, explore emotions, gain new insights, manage negative behaviors, reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem.

The ultimate goal in art therapy is the same as traditional therapy- which is to improve or restore a person’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being. It’s just a different means of getting there.

What to Expect

An art therapy session is traditional talk therapy merged with the creative process. An art therapist may ask you to create something to help reflect on your situation and/or yourself in order to gain new insights. You might also find that process of creating provides relief and helps you to understand yourself more. This insight is the beginning of the change process and is essential for lasting recovery.

It’s important to note that art therapists do not pathologize, judge or interpret what is created, but encourage the client to create their own meaning through reflective questions. This process engages the mind, body and spirit which accesses different feelings than just verbal articulation alone.

Who is it For?

A common misconception is that art therapy is just for children. Anyone of any age can benefit from art therapy- from children and adolescents to adults. The advantages of art therapy by age group can differ- a child with developmental delays can find help with fine motor control and improved communication skills, whereas an adult who has survived trauma might experience reduced anxiety, improved sense of sense due to accessing and processing their trauma differently.

Additionally, many people think “well I’m not good at drawing” or “I can’t do that” but you don’t need to be a talented artist to receive the benefits from art therapy. A credentialed art therapist can work with you to dive into the underlying messages communicated through your art, which aid in improving insight and healing process.

If you are looking for a more integrative therapy process, feel stuck where you are or are just curious about art and therapy, I encourage you to schedule your appointment today. You never know what can come up and what new understandings are waiting to be found!

Elisa Kalb, LCPC is a credentialed art therapist, formerly on the team at Starks Therapy Group. [Our current art therapist is Allegra Socki.]

DISCLAIMER: The sole purpose of this post is to keep individuals informed of Starks Therapy Group's events, provide useful information related to mental health issues and provide thoughtful content related to self care and mental health. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental illness. This post is not monitored daily and is used for information sharing only. If you wish to communicate directly with someone at Starks Therapy Group, please call 708-689-3055. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911.

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