About Art Therapy

Art Therapy...

  • is a health service profession
  • is based on psychological theory and research
  • employs art and other creative modalities in support of the client's goals
  • endorses the idea that the process of making art is inherently therapeutic
  • takes into consideration thoughts, feelings, behaviours and spirituality within the counselling process
  • can be used to explore issues of relationships, family, loss, life transitions, abuse, and development

may include interventions to:

  • resolve emotional conflict
  • increase self-awareness and self-esteem
  • build social skills
  • change behaviour
  • increase coping skills
  • develop strategies for problem solving

Why Use Art Therapy?

As an art-based therapeutic approach, there are many potential benefits that may derive from the use of Art Therapy. Some of the specific advantages are:

  • does not rely on language or verbal skills
  • may provide an accessible modality for persons with certain disabilities
  • offers opportunities to access experiences in a controlled way
  • focuses concentration on a single activity, shutting out intrusive thoughts
  • encourages creative thinking and risk-taking in a safe environment
  • endorses the idea that creativity is inherently therapeutic
  • may be less intrusive and yet is capable of releasing strong emotion safely
  • creating art can be fun

What to Expect From Art Therapy

Although approaches to Art Therapy are varied, some commonalities may include:

  • Art Therapy may be conducted as part of a group process or as individual counselling.
  • Clients do not need to have artistic skills nor creative background to participate.
  • The emphasis is on the process of self-discovery, self-expression, personal development and integration.
  • Artwork may be spontaneously created or may be directed by the suggestions of the therapist.

Members of the Ontario Art Therapy Association are guided by a Code of Ethics and by Standards of Professional Practice.

Frequently Asked Question

How does Art Therapy work?
Art is the tool for communication, self-examination and healing. Many Art Therapists combine art activities with verbal exploration of the art product to facilitate understanding of the client's issues and concerns. The emphasis on art or discussion may vary, depending on the therapist's approach or the client's needs.

Do I need to know how to draw?
Drawing skill or other artistic ability is not necessary in order to participate in Art Therapy. Art is the tool for communication, self-examination and healing. The value of the art produced in therapy lies in what it communicates to the client and not how it looks. As well, the creative act, in itself, can be healing.

Where will I find an Art Therapist?
Art Therapists practice in a variety of settings, working with clients of all ages in individual, couples, family or group format. Art Therapists work in psychiatric or general hospitals, in geriatric or oncology wards, in schools, shelters, hospices, rehabilitation centres, nursing homes, forensic units, counselling centres, community agencies and child welfare agencies. They may also work in a variety of other institutions or agencies. Art Therapists may combine working in a private practice or agency with teaching or research.

The Ontario Art Therapy Association maintains a directory of members in good standing and can direct you to a therapist in your locality.

What should I know about my Art Therapist?
Art Therapists use a variety of approaches depending on their academic background, their client base, and their therapeutic orientation. Art Therapy as a therapeutic modality is not limited to a single psychological model nor a school of thought, but practitioners may utilize a variety of approaches including Psychodynamic, Cognitive-Behavioral, Humanistic, Educational or other therapeutic approaches.

Ask an Art Therapist the same questions you would ask any other health professional.
Common questions are:

  • What is your educational background?
  • Where did you receive your Art Therapy training?
  • What is your professional/internship experience?
  • How long have you been practicing as an Art Therapist?
  • What are your fees?
  • What therapeutic approach do you use?
  • What are your policies on missed appointments?
  • What can I expect in a session?
  • What professional organizations do you belong to?
  • What is your status Registered, Professional, Graduate, Student?