What is Art Psychotherapy?
Art Psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that includes art making and images in the therapeutic process. It can offer you a different approach to communicate thoughts and feelings and it can be a complementary tool in talking therapy to help put things into words. This doesn’t mean you have to make art each session; it’s perfectly okay to alternate between talking and art making.
The use of imagery is not uncommon in our daily lives. Just think of metaphors, dreams, stories and myths. Images can elicit memories and vice versa. They can be a powerful tool to communicate your inner world.
"(...) the art you make is irrevocably bound to the times and places of your life" (Bayles & Orland 1993, p.52)
In therapy, these meaningful visuals can be externalised. This creates distance and can help you see things more clearly. Additionally, there is also a sensory experience with the smell, touch and sound of materials which include pens, paper, collage, charcoal, pastels, paint and clay. The use of materials can also have a calming effect.
For children and young people
The Art Psychotherapy approach might feel more familiar to children because play, games and art are part of a child's tools to express, re-enact and process what they come across.
Age-appropriate materials are available such as washable paint, non-toxic plasticine and aprons. Young people might alternate between talking and making art, with art materials being readily available such as sketchbooks, clay, markers and pens.
It might have been a while since you've held a pencil or a paintbrush and used colouring or drawing as a way to express yourself.
To engage in Art Psychotherapy you do not require any background or experience in art. You use it in a way that is meaningful to you, with focus on a space to "play", to explore and experiment. Whether these are detailed figures, patterns, collage or splashes of paint.