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Complementary Healthcare Information Service - UK

Art Therapy

The use of art has always been used for self-expression and to convey ideas and emotions that are difficult to describe verbally. It's potential as a therapeutic tool became apparent after World War 2 when survivors of the war used art in hospitals and rehabilitation centres to help to overcome the traumas they had experienced.

What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is a non-verbal way of revealing deeper emotions that may not otherwise be clearly expressed. A form of psychotherapy where art (creative expression using various media: painting, drawing, sculpture etc) is used to allow safe expression of emotions. The client is encouraged to express themselves freely through art, allowing a link between the subconscious the product of the art therapy. The resulting images can help to bring to light any suppressed emotions or conflicts. Reflecting on the images can help to understand and deal with the issues that arise. Art Therapy is also used as a tool for personal growth and greater self-understanding.

There are two main approaches to Art Therapy. One is that the act of creating the artwork is therapeutic in itself and allows the client to understand their own inner conflicts and emotions without any interpretation from the therapist. The other approach takes the view that the artwork is a non-verbal method of communicating and allows the therapist to understand and identify the client's needs through interpretation to help them to deal with the issues.

Art Therapy is often used in hospitals, prisons, education centres and mental health clinics and is suitable for people of all ages. It is especially beneficial for emotional and psychological disorders as it provides a means of communication to express feelings that are too difficult to verbalise. It is also of great use for personal development and growth by helping to identify problem areas and then transform negative images into positive ones.

Therapy sessions may be on a one-to-one basis or in a group. An initial consultation is taken to determine general health, medical treatment and lifestyle details before any sessions commence. No previous art experience is necessary as the purpose is to use the art media to help to communicate deeper inner emotions which can then be self-interpreted.

 

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