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What is Art Therapy?
Ever heard of art therapy?
Art Stuff 30 Aug 2022

Ever heard of art therapy? Art Therapy is a form of therapy in which the patient creates artwork to process their internal conflicts and difficult thoughts. It is often undertaken in tandem with other therapy or assistance.

The History of Art Therapy

After World War Two, the artist Edward Adamson began a project with the British Red Cross Picture Library which saw him bring paintings to tuberculosis wards in hospitals in the hope that by attending to the patients mental needs, it would help to heal them physically too. Soon Adamson began bringing paintings and art lectures to mental asylums, and also started to run art lessons for the inmates. Initially, patients would paint and a psychiatrist would analyse it. In 1946 the Adamson Collection was started, which now has over 5,000 objects created by patients. Just before this, the British writer and artist Adrian Hill published his book ‘Art Versus Illness’ which coined the term ‘Art Therapy’.

The Benefits of Art Therapy

Art Therapy is based on the idea that expressing oneself is good for stress-levels and processing trauma.

Art has been proved to be an excellent coping mechanism for patients, too, who may discover new-found passions and ways to express themselves. For some, discovering a real talent for art helps with self-esteem, too, and helps for them to not feel defined by their illness or struggles.

Art Therapy can also be help with the diagnosis of certain disorders, and helping practitioners to discover the best support needed for their patient. The act of creating art is also one that needs self-awareness, and this aids patients in understanding their needs better for themselves. For people suffering with unpleasant illnesses, arts activities can also improve their quality of life.

In 2016 the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association published a study mentioning that just an hour of creativity (and not even something that you’re “good” at) per day can significantly reduce your stress levels.

The Difference Between Art Therapy and an Art Class

Art classes are typically based around the idea of passing on knowledge, and learning how to do something based on the instruction of a teacher. Art Therapy is all about being guided by your own intuition, with no pressure on the outcome or process.

Art teachers come in a variety of degrees of qualification, too, whereas to become a qualified art therapist you’ll have to have your psychotherapy masters and an art therapy qualification, too.

What Happens in Art Therapy?

This depends on your art therapist, whether you are having an individual or a group session, your goals for this therapy, and ultimately on how you’re feeling on the day and how engaged you are with the activity. Your therapist is likely to ask you about what you’re making and what it means to you. The therapist won’t be analysing your art work in your absence.

Author: Verity Babbs

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