What is Art Therapy?
According to the American Art Therapy Association, Art Therapy is “a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.” An Art Therapist is trained in all the same skills as a psychotherapist with additional training in Art Therapy. Therefore, a session will involve regular talk therapy and, if the client is interested, use of art materials to explore ideas or relationships that have come up.
How does art therapy work?
There aren’t always words for our inner experiences, and it can be challenging at times to translate our feelings into words. Verbal processing isn’t the only way to express something and move through it. Art materials, along with the Art Therapist relationship, help us make contact with internal emotions and experiences and translate them into external form. This transformative process of sublimation allows for greater agency over these inner forces. As we feel into sadness, for example, and make a painting about that sadness, we begin to see it in a new way and naturally find new and creative ways of working with it. The art materials themselves each have unique qualities and capacities, thus holding unique roles in the healing process.
Is previous art training necessary?
Not at all. Art Therapy is not about making “pretty” things, or even making realistic drawings. It’s about the process of expressing yourself in new and honest ways, whether that is through drawing, collage, clay, or even simple stick figures. As my teacher Dr. Michael Franklin would say, “The best art is the most honest art.”
Art and soul
Images come in many forms— via dreams, paintings, poetry, songs that get stuck in our heads, scribbles and doodles we make, pages we leave blank, etc. By bringing awareness to our inner imagery, and by cultivating a relationship with these places in ourselves, we become deeply connected with our innate wisdom, intuition, and ability to heal. Art work is soul work, and having a witness (like an art therapist) to our creative unfolding is deeply nourishing and helps make transformation possible.
Who is Art Therapy for?
Art Therapy has proven to be useful for adults, adolescents, children, and elders working through depression, anxiety, trauma, loss of meaning, addiction, relationship issues, grief and loss, and much more. Medicinal Mindfulness offers Art Therapy in individual and group settings for the treatment of numerous clinical concerns. We also specialize in art-based psychedelic integration.
Art and Mindfulness
Making art is a contemplative practice which helps us to know and understand ourselves. The process, if we pay close attention to it, reveals unconscious material and teaches us new ways of being in the world.