Art psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy in which art making is utilised by the client to facilitate their therapy experience.
Art making is a non-verbal expression and it can be particularly helpful for people who are having difficulty expressing their feelings and thoughts in words to express through a creative modality.
Many people have memories of art making from childhood. This might have been at school or in another context, perhaps the home. Some people have carried their art making or an aspect of it into their adult lives. Whatever a person's previous experience when they come to art psychotherapy it is important to know that it is not about skill or technique, it is really about exploration and expression.
Art making is defined as many things in a contemporary context. Art can be painting, drawing, ceramics, photography and video, film, animation and computer work amongst many other forms and mediums. At the present time there is a combining and intersecting of mediums, modalities and disciplines occurring in the contemporary art world.
In the art psychotherapy room the client is offered the choice of paint, clay, collage and construction materials, inks and a variety of drawing materials to use. Digital media is also a possibility. Clients are encouraged to use the materials to express their current concerns. Sometimes this can be a daunting task so some sessions may be taken up with absorbing oneself in the use of paint or another medium for example. This use of your hands and the absorption in making something is one aspect of the therapeutic nature of art psychotherapy.
Another part of art psychotherapy is the relationship that we create together in the room and the conversations that may develop over time between us. As a psychoanalytically informed art psychotherapist I am trained to be aware of conscious and unconscious expressions. Sometimes when one is engaged in making an artwork unconscious expressions arise. The therapist and the client explore artworks made by speaking about them together in the safe and confidential setting of the art therapy room. This can lead to personal insights and over time personal growth and understanding can be enhanced.