What is Art Therapy?

By Rapinder Kaur

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy which reconciles emotional conflicts and promotes personal growth. The essence of art therapy lies in the therapeutic outcome of the activity of creating something. ‘The process of art therapy is based on the recognition that man’s most fundamental thoughts and feelings, derived from the unconscious, reach expression in images rather than words’ (Naumberg 1958).

The individual is free to choose from a variety of art media to give expression to repressed thoughts and feelings related to conflicts, traumatic experiences, fantasies, dreams, self-image, and patterns of relationships with others. Artistic talent or previous background is not essential in this process. It facilitates communication and enhances verbal therapy.

Art Therapists typical work as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; residential group homes; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; art studios; and independent practices.