As both a Licensed Counselor and Art Therapist, I am often faced with curiosity, confusion, or skepticism when I bring up the possibility of integrating Art Therapy into my work with adult clients. In this blog post I aim to answer some of the most common questions that clients have posed and demystify the process of art therapy for adults.
What is Art Therapy? Art Therapy is the utilization of art materials and artistic processes within the therapeutic setting to assist in addressing and processing mental health concerns. Art Therapy is founded on the premise that the creation and processing of artwork provides a wide range of therapeutic benefits- including relaxation, emotional regulation, and improved insight.
Isn’t that for kids? Art Therapy is definitely a great approach for therapeutic work with children- but it’s also great for adults too! Art therapy can be applied to individual, couple, family, and group sessions. Most behavioral health hospitals include the use of Art Therapy as part of the daily programming for adults.
What if I can’t draw? You do not need to have any previous art experience to engage with and benefit from art therapy. I often tell clients “the goal of art therapy is not to create a ‘pretty picture,’ to hang on the wall.” As such, it is not an art class and there is freedom to play and explore with different materials. It is perfectly acceptable to create imagery that is silly, scary, or ugly. Afterall, uncomfortable emotions are rarely captured well in the form of a pretty picture. All humans have the ability to create imagery, and by disengaging from verbal processes you are utilizing a different part of your brain.
What can I expect? Every art therapist has a slightly different approach, just as every talk therapy session will have natural variation. In some instances you may begin your session with an art-based check in, or you may begin the session with a verbal discussion that transitions into art-making near the end. I always give my clients the choice between receiving a directive or creating whatever they want in that moment. Directives are chosen based upon the content of the work being addressed (for instance, anxiety or interpersonal conflict.) You may choose to work in silence and discuss your artwork after completed, or you may talk about the artistic process and meaning as it unfolds. Art therapy is a no-rules zone; therefore, it is impossible to “do it wrong.”
Who should engage in art therapy? Anyone and everyone can engage in art therapy! If you are able to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new, you may find that art can be another form of self-expression and catharsis.
To learn more about engaging in Art Therapy, reach out to one of our Art Therapists by booking an appointment below:
Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P