Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer were two of the first to formalize art therapy as a profession in the United States. In the 1940s and 1950s, they developed and wrote about the use of art in psychotherapy.
Naumburg coined the term “art therapy” and Kramer is credited with helping to establish it as a field of study.
Since then, art therapy has been used in the treatment of a wide range of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders. Art therapy can be an effective treatment for people of all ages, from children to adults.
Read on to find out more about how art therapy can help mental health conditions.
What Is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses artistic creativity as a way to improve mental health and well-being. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in making art can be therapeutic and can help people express themselves in ways that they may not be able to do through words alone (3).
Art therapy is practiced by trained art therapists who are mental health professionals such as counselors, psychologists, and social workers. They use a variety of techniques and materials, including drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, and photography.
What Are The Goals Of Art Therapy?
The human brain is hardwired for creativity. Art therapy taps into this natural ability to promote healing and improve mental health.
- Help people express themselves and explore their feelings
- Enhance self-esteem and self-awareness
- Encourage healing and personal growth
- Improve social skills
- Reduce stress and anxiety
Types Of Mental Health Conditions Treated With Art Therapy
Art therapy has been found to be an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions. It can be used in treating both children and adults. Some of the conditions that art therapy can treat include:
Art therapy can help people with anxiety disorders by teaching them healthy coping mechanisms. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety (3).
Art therapy can help people with depression by teaching them ways to express their feelings. It can also help to improve self-esteem and self-awareness (3).
Art therapy can help people with eating disorders by teaching them healthy coping mechanisms. It can also help to improve body image and self-esteem (3).
Art therapy can help people with substance abuse disorders by teaching them healthy coping mechanisms. It can also help to improve self-esteem and self-awareness (4).
Art Therapy For Edlerly
Old age comes with its own set of problems like loneliness, boredom, declining health and memory loss. Art therapy can help elderly people by providing a creative outlet to express their feelings. It can also help to improve their self-esteem and social skills (3).
Art Therapy For Children
Art therapy can help children by providing a creative outlet to express their feelings. It can also help improve their social skills and reduce stress and anxiety (2).
Something tells us you often forget to put all the everyday hustle and bustle on hold and simply concentrate on yourself. It’s time to straighten out your priorities! Take a moment to heal, process your emotions, ground yourself, release all the pent-up tension and recharge with the BetterMe: Mental Health app before getting back into the race of life!
How Does Art Therapy Work?
In the strict sense, art therapy is the use of artmaking within a professional relationship to address psychological and emotional needs. The art therapist facilitates the process and uses the images produced to understand what is going on with the client, gain insight into their mental state, and help them recover from trauma or improve their mental well-being (3).
There are different ways art therapists can work with clients. Some use traditional talk therapy alongside artmaking, while others may only use the artwork itself to understand the client. The type of approach used will be based on the therapist’s training and the needs of the client.
You don’t have to be in a professional environment to experience the benefits of art therapy, though. Anyone can use practice art as a way to cope with stress, express their emotions, or boost their mood.
How Does Art Help Mental Health?
Art therapy has been shown to offer the following benefits for mental health:
Provides An Outlet For Emotions
Complex emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, and shame can be difficult to express in words. Art provides a safe outlet for these emotions and can help people to process and understand them better (3).
Helps To Improve Communication
Art can be used as a way to communicate when words are not enough. It can help people express themselves when they find it hard to put their feelings into words.
Increases Self-Esteem And Confidence
The creative process can help to boost self-esteem and confidence (3). Seeing your own creations can be a source of pride and satisfaction. The act of creating something can also help you feel more in control of your life and situation.
Art can be a tool for self-discovery. It can help you to explore your emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It can also be used to develop new ways of thinking and behaving (3).
The creative process can be relaxing and therapeutic. It can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels (3).
Art can be a mood booster. The act of creating something can help lift your spirits and improve your overall mood (2).
Getting Started With Art Therapy
You don’t need to be a talented artist to benefit from art therapy. The focus is on the process of creating, not the end product. Anyone can do it, regardless of skill level.
That said, there are a few things to consider when seeking art therapy:
Find A Board-Certified Art Therapist
The best way to experience the benefits of art therapy is to work with a board-certified art therapist. These professionals are trained in both art and therapy, and they can tailor the process to your individual needs.
If you’re not sure where to find an art therapist, you can check the website of the Art Therapy Credentials Board or the American Art Therapy Association.
Check Whether Your Insurance Plan Covers Art Therapy
While art therapy is becoming more mainstream, it’s still not always covered by insurance plans. Check with your insurance provider to see if art therapy is a covered service.
Some therapists may offer a sliding scale fee, which means they charge based on your ability to pay. This can make art therapy more affordable.
Use A Consultation To Check Whether The Therapist Is A Good Fit
When you’re considering art therapy, it’s important to find a therapist you feel comfortable with. You should feel safe sharing your thoughts and emotions with this person.
A good way to see if a therapist is a good fit is to schedule a consultation. This gives you an opportunity to meet the therapist and get a sense of their personality and approach.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions during the consultation. You can ask about the therapist’s training, experience, and approach to art therapy.
Take some time to think about whether you feel comfortable with the therapist before making a decision.
Going It Alone
As earlier mentioned, professional help is the best way to experience the benefits of art therapy. But if you’re not ready or able to seek professional help, there are still ways you can use art to support your mental health.
Here are a few ideas:
Take An Art Class
One way to get started with art is to take an art class. This can be a great way to explore your creativity and learn new techniques.
You can find art classes at community centers, colleges, and studios. There are also many online options available.
Join An Art Group
Another option is to join an art group. These groups provide a supportive environment for exploring creativity. They can also be a great way to meet new people.
You can often find art groups at community centers, senior centers, and recreation centers. There are also many online options available.
Work With A Creative Coach
If you’re not sure where to start, you may want to work with a creative coach. These professionals can help you to explore your creativity and find ways to express yourself.
A creative coach can help you to identify your goals and create a plan to reach them. They can also provide support and guidance along the way.
The Bottom Line
Art therapy can be a helpful tool for managing mental health. If you’re considering this type of therapy, be sure to find a board-certified art therapist and check whether your insurance plan covers the service. A consultation can also help you decide if a particular therapist is right for you.
Remember that while art therapy is the best way to experience the benefits of art for mental health, there are still many ways to use art to support your mental health.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Art Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy for Combat-Related PTSD: A Randomized Controlled Trial (2018, nih.gov)
- Art Therapy for Psychosocial Problems in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Narrative Review on Art Therapeutic Means and Forms of Expression, Therapist Behavior, and Supposed Mechanisms of Change (2020, nih.gov)
- Effectiveness of Art Therapy With Adult Clients in 2018—What Progress Has Been Made? (2018, frontiersin.org)
- The Use of Art and Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs (2014, nih.gov)