What is Art Therapy?

      Art therapy is a type of therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a client's physical, mental and emotional well being.  It is an integrative approach that helps clients connect their mind, body and spirit.   Art therapy can help people of all ages make sense of their thoughts and feelings in a non threatening way.  During art therapy sessions, clients are given the opportunity to use various mediums, such as collage, paints, markers, colored pencils or clay.  After creating art, an art therapist then provides a safe space for the client to reflect on the process & the product.   

 

Through the creative process and reflecting on the final product, clients can:

- build coping skills,

- increase confidence & self esteem

- increase awareness of self and others, 

- explore thoughts and feelings

-  express traumatic experiences; 

- reduce stress and anxiety

- enhance cognitive abilities; 

- develop problem solving skills

- improve focus

- feel empowered

Who benefits from Art Therapy?

Everyone! Clients of all ages- children, teens and adults- all can benefit.  Clients do not need to have artistic ability or special talent to participate in art therapy.  All it takes is an openness to try something new.

What does an Art Therapy session look like?

    An art therapy session usually starts off with a verbal check-in, followed by time to work on one's artwork.   Some clients know what they want to create and other clients prefer to have the art therapist give a specific directive that is designed to help the client meet their goals. The session concludes with time to reflect and process the artwork verbally.  Each part is flexible though & depends on the client's needs. 

 

    For example, if a client is new to recovery, an art therapy directive might involve drawing a picture of what their life looked like when they were using verus now, when clean and sober.  Their image can serve as a powerful reminder of how things were.  Or if a teenager is seeking help for panic attacks, a related art therapy directive might be for a teen to draw where in one's body they feel the panic.  This can help a teen externalize the problem, increase self awareness and provide an opportunity to learn about why anxiety causes bodily sensations.  For example, during a panic attack, one might feel dizzy or disconnected from reality.  This happens because one is overbreathing and taking in too much oxygen as a way to power up muscles in case there was real danger and not just an imaginary one.   

How does one become an art therapist?

    A registered art therapist (ATR) is a Masters level clinician who has been specially trained in both studio art and psychology.  In order to become a registered art therapist, one must complete a 60 credit Master's level grad school program and then complete 1,000 supervised clinical hours.  Kim completed her Masters in Art Therapy at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY.  While in grad school, Kim completed internships at a county jail, a teenage substance abuse treatment program and at a children's hospital.  After grad school, Kim moved to Los Angeles and completed her 1,000 hours of supervised clinical hours in a domestic violence shelter and also worked on an inpatient behavioral health unit at a local hospital.  For more information or to see what schools offer graduate programs in art therapy, please visit the American Art Therapy Association's website: https://arttherapy.org/

 

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© 2019 by Kimberly Gibson, MS, ATR, LPCC.