What is art therapy?

You don’t need any experience with art or any special talent to benefit from art therapy, because it isn’t about making beautiful or life-like pictures. It’s about using art materials within a confidential space and a therapeutic relationship. In art therapy, art-making as well as talking are the media for exploring your thoughts and feelings. As an art therapist, I help you to engage with the art materials, to look at what emerges, and to make sense of whatever we see in a meaningful way.

An art therapy session is a place where you can lay out the pieces of yourself, the familiar ones as well as others that you may not know very well. It’s a space where we can explore how these pieces get put together and work to understand, appreciate and maybe rearrange them so that it all fits together better. Most people come to art therapy because their relationships with others have become painful or destructive. Our relationships with others often reflect the relationship we have with ourselves, and both of these can be extremely difficult to untangle alone. My role is to help you express yourself more fully, to see yourself more clearly, and to help you change the things you want to change — so that your relationship with yourself as well as with others becomes richer and more fulfilling.

Children often take to art-making without hesitation, but for adults the idea of making art as therapy can seem irrelevant. But in fact art therapy is very effective for adults as well as children, as it helps to reach where words cannot. Words are actually often irrelevant to what we experience. This is partly because we can see before we can speak. Our world is made up of images and feelings before it becomes full of words and thoughts. Art can tap into current as well as past issues that we can’t otherwise get in touch with very easily.

A picture is worth much more than a thousand words because our experience often doesn’t fit well into words. Turmoil, sadness, anger, anxiety and confusion can make it necessary to go beyond talking. Art-making allows us to see and explore what may be complex or unspeakable feelings. Through the art therapy process, these issues may come to light, become speakable — and therefore become ready to resolve.