What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy involves making pictures, models, mosaics and other three dimensional work to express and explore inner conflicts, feelings and emotional difficulties. It is facilitated by an Art Therapist who is skilled in helping people to understand and interpret their artwork. In this way, art therapy is very different to being taught art or using art as a hobby.
Producing artwork can be a valuable alternative to communicating verbally as images and models can represent experiences that are difficult to put into words. Feelings which are deeply held, disowned or unrealised can be expressed.
How can working with an Art Therapist help?
Many people find that they can relate to the art therapist more easily through their artwork as it provides a focus for discussion, analysis and self-discovery. Art Therapists can work with people individually or in groups, and they are skilled in helping people to manage emotions and feelings that might arise during the process of producing and interpreting their artwork. This can help people to become more aware of their feelings and the reasons behind them.
Art Therapists can use a variety of different methods according to the person they are working with and where the therapy takes place. Art therapy can be used to help with past or current experiences, with the aim being to encourage insight and change, equipping people with skills to cope more successfully outside of therapy.
Will everything I share and discuss with an Art Therapist be kept confidential?
Yes, anything you share will be kept confidential. Therapy sessions are recorded on the computer database, however this can only be seen be authorised people according to the data protection act which protects confidential information. The only time anything might be shared further is if the therapist believes that there is a risk to you or someone else.
Real Life Experience
I have never been particularly artistic, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when my care coordinator suggested I might find art therapy helpful. She said it could help me express things for which I had no words. The smell of paint and being in an art studio reminded me of school! The therapist had lots of different mediums I could use, pencils, crayons, a variety of paints, magazines for making collages, and modelling clay.
When I had my first session I was very recently out of hospital after a stay of three months. I was still experiencing distressing voices and felt very low. The therapist gave me a huge piece of paper and suggested I should just go with how I felt. I chose the black acrylic paint, and swirled it all around the paper. I found the textures I was creating with the thick paint very soothing, creating jagged edges and smooth mounds with the paint. I ended up with a completely black piece of paper, but it felt like a really meaningful expression of my feelings at that time.
I continued with the therapy weekly for several months and ended up with quite a big portfolio of art works. Looking back over those pieces I was able to see how I had moved on with my feelings over time. Even though I no longer have art therapy I still occasionally look at the pieces I made and I am reminded of the progress I have made in my life, and reflect on the meaning they have to me.