Art therapy is an allied health profession. IACAT-accredited art therapists use art media and creative interventions to encourage self-expression and reflection within a therapeutic relationship. The aim is to improve mental health and maintain emotional well-being.
Art therapy can promote growth and positive change in people of all age and abilities. Art therapists work with a wide variety of client groups and in different settings including, but not limited to, education, mental health, statutory and voluntary organisations, healthcare and social services, as well as in private practice.
In an art therapy session, the art therapist provides various art media such as paints, clay, collage and other materials to help the client to express and explore their emotions, develop insight and make sense of difficult life experiences. The art therapist holds a safe, confidential setting, and works in a non-judgemental way. Art therapy sessions are generally non-directive and client-led, though therapists may offer themes or directives. It can take place in an individual or a group context. Art therapy is not an art class nor is its purpose recreational, though sessions can be enjoyable. There is no need for any prior art-making experience. The therapist works with the client to explore their images to reach their own personal understanding and insight. Based on the age and needs of the client, a session usually lasts between 30 and 60 minutes depending on the attention span and focus of the client. The frequency of the sessions is determined during the initial assessment,
Like other forms of psychotherapy and counselling, art therapy is used to encourage personal growth and increase self-understanding. It can address a range of issues and concerns including confidence and self- esteem, trauma, bereavement and loss, depression, stress, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders and relationship difficulties.
Art therapy can help with:
- Developing self-awareness and personal insight
- Improving sense of self and self-identity
- Encouraging self-expression
- Improving confidence and self-esteem
- Resolving inner conflicts
- Assisting with gaining a sense of control over difficult emotions and life situations.
- Aiding emotional regulation
- Improving and maintain healthy psychosocial functioning
- Promoting resiliency and improve coping skills
- Supporting neuropsychological growth
Art therapists are qualified health professionals trained to MA or MSc level and are accredited by IACAT. They carry out assessments, design and implement therapy programs and evaluate outcomes with reference to the most up to date research base. Therapists undertake continuing professional development and regular clinical supervision.