What is Arts Therapy?

Currently I am studying for my Masters in Arts therapy (Clinical). Sometime in the near future I plan to open my practise in New Plymouth.

Arts therapy is…

A form of psychotherapy and is sometimes also called creative arts therapy or expressive arts therapy. Arts therapy practice is based on understandings of human development and psychological theories alongside the presence of creative modalities.

Arts therapy uses creative processes within a therapeutic relationship to explore experiences and express emotions. Arts therapists encourage people to express and understand emotions through artistic expression and through the creative process. The Arts therapist offers a secure and safe space for clients to process issues while the arts, in a therapeutic context, can facilitate self-expression and exploration.

Arts therapists may use visual art making (painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, printmaking, photography) writing, poetry, dance/movement, song and drama.

Arts therapy differs from traditional art-making in that the emphasis is on the process of creating and meaning-making, rather than on the end product. Engaging in creativity is in itself healing, allowing us to express ourselves symbolically and metaphorically thereby giving access to new insights and choices.

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. Art therapy provides a unique opportunity for non verbal communication, allowing clients to express feelings in a safe environment.

Arts therapists are Master’s level professionals who hold a degree in Arts therapy and are clinically registered to practice with the governing body called ANZACATA.

Educational requirements include:

  • theories of art therapy
  • counselling and psychotherapy
  • ethics and standards of practice
  • assessment and evaluation
  • individual, group, and family techniques
  • human and creative development
  • multicultural issues
  • research methods; and practicum experiences in clinical, community and/or other settings
  • Art therapists are skilled in the application of a variety of art modalities (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other media) for assessment and treatment.

Arts therapists are trained to work with people of all ages in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation, psychiatric, medical, residential, educational, assisted living facilities, as well as in private practice.

Arts therapy is used with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, individuals, groups and families.

Arts therapy can be helpful for those experiencing …

  • lack of confidence
  • life changes
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • other mental and emotional problems
  • substance abuse and addictions
  • family and relationship issues
  • abuse and domestic violence
  • social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness trauma and loss
  • physical, cognitive, and neurological problems; and psychosocial difficulties related to medical illness

Arts therapy can help…

  • develop ways to cope
  • reduce stress
  • build problem solving skills
  • improve self esteem
  • manage anxiety
  • resolve inner turmoil and conflicts
  • relax and calm nerves
  • express feelings and experiences
  • develop personal insight
  • work towards wellbeing
  • staying motivated during the recovery process
  • change management and goal setting

Arts therapy and ‘art classes’ are not the same thing!


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