What Is Art Therapy?

What Is Art Therapy and how can it help the victims of bullying. Discover how art therapy helps.

What Is Art Therapy

What is art therapy? A division of the mental health profession, art therapy encompasses various methods to facilitate physical and mental healing from many different conditions. The patient is encouraged to explore their feelings through art therapy outlets, which helps establish self-confidence.

Art therapy is also used to control behavior-related conditions and help with drug and alcohol dependence issues. Art therapy is designed to reduce patient’s anxiety and help develop social skills. Art therapy facilitates natural healing and emotional balance from various issues by tapping into the body’s natural creative energies.

Where Art Therapy Is Practiced

Art Therapy

Art therapy has a broad scope of applications. It is a medically recognized, widely-practiced form of healing method. Art therapy is practiced in many different areas. It is used in hospitals, rehabilitation, mental health, crisis, and wellness centers. It is utilized in both clinical and private medical practices. Art therapy is even used in places like schools and senior communities.

Who It Can Help

Art therapy is a medically researched and recognized form of treatment that can be used to help many different types of patients. It is an appropriate treatment for those experiencing social, psychological, or developmental impairments and is also effective for medical and educational issues.

People who may benefit the most from art therapy include those who have undergone a great deal of trauma due to situations like abuse, combat, and natural disasters, to name a few situations. People who have physical conditions like cancer and traumatic brain injury can also be helped through art therapy. Those with mental/behavioral disorders such as autismdementia, and depression may also benefit greatly through art therapy methods.

There is one particular condition in which art therapy is being used increasingly. People with eating disorders have had great success by working with art therapy methods. Art, pictures, and movement become the bridge through which unexpressed feelings and emotions are transformed. It is especially beneficial as it is a non-verbal way of communicating one’s innermost feelings.

At-risk adolescents also have much to gain by trying art therapy. Young people are allowed to express themselves freely and creatively, without having to put their feelings into words. Experts explain that it is easier for them to talk through their drawings or paintings. Children with learning disabilities may also be helped through art therapy—children with speech and language disorders, behavioral disorders, and other emotional troubles.

Those suffering from depression are another group that may benefit greatly from art therapy. For example, one researcher decided to see the effects of art therapy on prison inmates. According to a 2009 study by David Gussak, art therapy improved the emotional state of severely-depressed prison inmates.

He explains that prisoners commonly lose what is known as their “locus of control.” Essentially they know they have no control over their situation and feel powerless against it. Through art therapy, these prison inmates gain a sense of satisfaction while cultivating an internal sense of control within them.

Art therapy can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for the patient as they are given an outlet to express themselves creatively. When the artwork is completed, the patient gains satisfaction and accomplishment, which may raise their self-esteem. Art therapy can help patients gain personal insight into their condition and its corresponding characteristics. It can help people resolve conflicts, improve their social skills and relieve the adverse effects of stress, no matter the cause.

Art Therapy Methods

Art therapy may be administered individually or in a group setting, depending on what is best for the patient. The ultimate goal of art therapy is to enhance the patient’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. No matter what creative activity the patient participates in, the art therapist guides the patient to express their inner thoughts, feelings, perception, and imagination. The art therapist then takes the patient’s artwork and uses it to evaluate the patient’s current emotional, cognitive, and developmental states.

Who may use many different forms of art therapy? Three commonly-used art therapy methods include drawing, painting, and sculpture-making, which may also use photography and digital art. Patients can decide between many different types of art therapy to see which one better fits their personality. Feelings, perception, and imagination all come into play when working with art therapy. The art therapist’s purpose is to help patients decide which method suits them.

Music Therapy

What is art therapy? Music therapy is a form of art therapy. In music therapy, the therapist uses specific music or musical activities to help the patient. According to the American Music Therapy Association, when conducted in a formal setting, music therapy is the only form of healing that can prove its effectiveness through scientific research. Music therapy stimulates the client while supporting them creatively and emotionally.

Music therapy is used to help children with autism improve their ability to communicate. It is used to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve motor function and also help decrease symptoms of dementia. Music therapy can help premature infants sleep better and gain weight. It can help reduce pain in hospital patients suffering from various illnesses. Music therapy even can help a patient with a bullet wound to the brain regain the use of their speaking abilities.

Regarding this form of art therapy, one should note that music therapy must be administered under the direction of a certified professional. Although listening to music is known to be beneficial for many reasons, listening to random music does not mean the patient will experience any benefits at all from it.

For example, the American Music Therapy Association gives the following guidelines to help the public know what should and should not be classified as music therapy. They offer a list of situations that should not be classified as music therapy, and the following are only a few of their examples.

  • An Alzheimer’s patient listening to their favorite songs on an iPod
  • Having celebrities perform at hospitals and schools
  • A choir singing on the pediatric floor of a hospital
  • A high school student playing their guitar in a nursing home

As you can see, there is much room for confusion about what could be helpful and what would not be. That is why it is best to access this form of art therapy by consulting a certified music therapy professional. Credentialed music therapists require education in psychology, medicine, and music. Music therapists must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from an AMTA-approved university with a minimum of 1,200 hours of clinical training.

Dance Therapy

What is art therapy? Dance therapy is another form of art therapy. Dance therapy is built upon the idea that the body, mind, and spirit are interconnected. Who can improve emotional, physical, and social issues through dance therapy? Appropriate for people of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds, dance therapy can help patients express their feelings through various types of physical movement. Established in 1966, the American Dance Therapy Association regulates the certification of dance therapy instructors by upholding strict educational requirements.

This art therapy is commonly practiced in mental health and rehabilitation facilities. Dance therapy is used in nursing homes, daycare centers, promotional health programs, and private practices. It can help people deal with developmental, medical, social, and psychological issues. Through the art of movement and dance, the patient can access internal healing energy that can help with mental or physical illnesses.

About The American Art Therapy Association

The American Art Therapy Association is the primary resource for all types of information on art therapy. They are the leading resource professional art therapists use to enhance their private practices. Their publication, the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, presents varying types of information on the different art therapy methods to the public and therapists alike.