What is Arts Therapy?

Arts Therapy is...

Arts Therapy is a form of Psychotherapy and is sometimes also called ‘creative arts therapy’ or ‘expressive arts therapy’. Arts Therapists use metaphor,  a range of media/modalities and the creative process to facilitate the exploration of feelings, improve self-awareness and reduce anxiety for clients. The creative process empowers clients exploration and expression of unconscious material that is often difficult to articulate in words.

Registered Arts Therapists are trained in talk/‘top down’ and creative/‘bottom up’ therapeutic models. They use a range of psychotherapeutic models to help clients reflect on where they are at with curiosity rather than judgement. Arts Therapists support clients to experience new ways of seeing both themselves and their world, assisting the discovery of new pathways toward improving overall well being. 

Arts Therapy can help develop ways to cope with and reduce stress, build resilience and problem solving skills, foster self esteem, manage anxiety, process grief, relax and calm nerves, express feelings and experiences, develop personal insight and self-awareness, work towards wellbeing and reduce and resolve inner turmoil, conflicts and distress.

During each session, the Arts Therapist and client work together to understand and make meaning from the creative process or  product, discovering how it relates to the client’s life and what messages it holds for the client. Arts Therapy provides a unique opportunity for non-verbal communication, supporting clients to express feelings in a safe environment. Arts Therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone. Arts Therapy usually occurs in a safe, private space and confidentiality is paramount.

Art therapists see people who have medical or mental heath  concerns but also people who are seeking more emotional, creative and spiritual growth in their lives

Arts Therapy is used with people of all ages, gender, socioeconomic backgrounds, individuals, couples, groups, families and the wider community. Arts Therapists  work with people in a variety of settings. These include private practice, disability services, hospice, hospitals, rehabilitation, psychiatric, prisons, corporate structures, wellness centres,  residential and educational facilities.

Arts Therapists

Arts Therapists are Master’s level professionals who hold a degree in Arts Therapy and are clinically registered to practice assessment and treatment.

To register as an Arts Therapist in New Zealand a Master’s  (clinical) in Arts Therapy is needed. Arts Therapists are recognised by WINZ and ACC alongside Psychotherapists, Psychologists and Counsellors as trained professionals able to work with and assist in healing trauma. 

Arts Therapy and ‘art classes’ are not the same thing.

An Arts Therapy session is very different to an art class or lesson. It can be done with individuals or in group. No experience or expertise in art is needed and the sessions are often pleasurable.

Arts Therapy isn’t about being ‘good’ at art or producing neat and tidy work to take home and put on the wall. 

Arts Therapy encourages the use of art materials/processes to express emotions, however difficult or ‘messy’ they might be.


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