Understanding What Art Therapy Is and How It WorksPatient & Families
A common misunderstanding about art therapy is that you need to be an artist, the slightest bit creative, or even like art to participate. You don’t!
Whether you’re coming to therapy for anxiety, depression, relationships, or something else- everyone is welcome. And while creating art that you like and feel confident about can be therapeutic, it’s more of a bonus in art therapy. The art that you make in art therapy isn’t meant to be a masterpiece, but rather, it’s a communication tool.
A lot of therapy relies on talking. For some of us, talking about our feelings can be overwhelming and we have no idea where to begin. Art therapy can be another way of helping you understand and communicate how you feel.
Art therapy focuses primarily on the creative process. Through a combination of both creative expression and psychotherapy, art therapy helps patients navigate mental, emotional, and physical challenges through their own artistic expressions. An art therapist is trained to use art as a modality to explore inner thoughts and feelings.
What does that mean? It means that you might come to a therapy session with big feelings about something that happened to you over the week. Perhaps you are having a difficult time putting those feelings into words. An art therapist sees this as an avenue for art to jump in and act as a language. An art therapist might suggest that you select a handful of collage images that in some way connect with the feelings that you are struggling to express verbally. Through creation, processing and reflection- art therapy can help make sense of those feelings through the visual process.
It’s important to emphasize that art therapists are Master’s level clinicians with training in both art and psychotherapy. You may see the letters “ATR” and “MFT” after a therapist’s name. ATR stands for art therapist and MFT for Marriage and Family Therapist. The MFT title is misleading, but did you know that an MFT is trained to see individuals, couples, families and groups?
Art therapy is still new or unknown to lots of professionals who work in health! You can find art therapists working in schools, hospitals, inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities, prisons, private practices and more. If you’re interested in working with an art therapist, there happen to be some working here at Soultenders. And, if you’re interested in learning more about art therapy, this is a link to the American Art Therapy Association.
Lauren Pena MFT, ATR, LMFT # 130687
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