Art therapy is a form of experiential psychotherapy that involves engaging creatively in art making within a therapeutic relationship to enhance mental, emotional and physical well-being. Art therapy provides an avenue to express, explore, and externalise experiences, thoughts, feelings and behaviours through non-verbal communication. This is especially helpful when words are inadequate to describe one's experience, or when an experience is too difficult to articulate.
Art therapy could also be a helpful way to step out of the stories that one may be stuck in cognitively, as it offers an alternative way of expressing, perceiving and processing one's experience. I practise the humanistic approach to art therapy and work together with my clients to understand their art work, process or experience from each session, which may reveal subconscious material and serves as a means of reflection for the client.
Art therapy can assist an individual in many ways. These include facilitating the experience of mindfulness, expression of suppressed emotions, processing of traumatic experiences, and resolving of inner conflicts; to promote the experience of relaxation/ pleasure/ satisfaction/ empowerment; to enhance self awareness, understanding and acceptance; and to develop perspective and insight. There is increasing evidence to support the efficacy of art therapy as a therapeutic intervention for individuals who have experienced a range of issues, including trauma/PTSD, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, cancer and dementia.
Art therapy is suitable for people of all ages and backgrounds. As the emphasis of art therapy is in the process of creating and meaning making rather than the aesthetics of the eventual art work, no prior art experience or skill is necessary. Art therapy differs from an art class as there is no way that one could get it "wrong". Each art making process is entirely unique to the individual at a specific point in time. I often encourage my clients to engage in the creative process by "playing" with the art materials, especially if they find art making intimidating. The most common statement I hear people say before they participate in their first art therapy session is "I'm not artistic/creative". However, when they allow themselves to engage in the creative process, people often marvel at how creative they are after the session.