What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a non-verbal way to communicate difficult and painful feelings through the use of art materials and creative play. Art therapists support individual adults and children to make art without assessing or judging the artwork. It is not a recreational activity or an art lesson, although it can be fun and it may be helpful for children to explain it to others as their ‘art course’.

Why I should use it?

Art therapy is about using art materials with an art therapist to show yourself and others how you are feeling. It helps you to understand your feelings and behaviours and supports you in managing and communicating your emotions.

People attend art therapy for many reasons including anxiety, anger, loss, behavioural difficulties and bullying. Children who have experienced early/developmental trauma and attachment difficulties can communicate through their artworks what they cannot put into words. The work can be directive or non-directive and therapists can work with individuals, families or groups.

 

Art Therapy supports:

  • Emotional expression and regulation, increasing understanding of different feeling states.
  • Self-esteem and confidence building, through exploring views and increasing awareness of self.
  • Relationship building and development of social skills.
  • Understanding behavioural difficulties and developing coping skills.
  • Increasing the use of sensory motor skills and supporting cognitive functioning.

 

How do I know its right for me?

Art Therapy is not about being good at art or making a “good image’’. You don’t need to have any previous experience of art, just a willingness to use the art materials to express yourself. The overall aim is to help you change and grow on a personal level through using art materials with the therapist in a safe environment.

Describe the process?

Art therapy is a time for you to make art and play in a safe space. You can choose to paint use pastels, pencils, clay, collage, junk materials, puppets, etc. You can talk about your artwork if you want to.

When working with children, the therapist may make an initial phone call to the parents to establish the parents’ understanding of the child’s needs and their objectives for therapy.

At the first meeting, you and/or your child and the art therapist will discuss the reasons for attending and check with children their understanding of what is happening. You will have a chance to ask questions and set goals with the therapist. The main focus of this session is to relay safety and security and to establish a verbal and written contract between therapist and client.

Sessions will be once a week for up to 12 weeks (at the same time and location) on an individual basis with the therapist at a time and location to suit you or your child. Each session will last up to one hour. When children attend art therapy, the therapist will check in with parents after every third or fourth session to discuss progress and share whatever the child is comfortable sharing. The therapist will remain mindful of the child’s right to confidentiality, while respecting the significance of some sharing in respect of the attachment relationship.

During therapy your work and anything you discuss is confidential and will be stored securely by the therapist. When you have finished working with a therapist you can keep your art work, or the therapist will store it securely for you for up to five years. A review session at the end of the course will discuss your progress and future support. An evaluation report will be sent to the funders of the TESSA project; this will be anonymous and will not reveal confidential information. You can check with your therapist exactly what is being shared if you are unsure about any aspect of the assessment or evaluation.