What is Art Therapy and Who Can it Help?  

Art therapy IS therapy. Like all therapies, successful treatment depends on the therapist-client relationship. Art therapists use art as a “tool” to help people, much like talk therapists use words. Art therapy may teach art techniques, but art therapy is not art instruction. Art therapy focuses on the artmaking process and content, and not the appearance of the finished art piece. Therefore, art therapy is something anyone can do regardless of their artistic ability. Art therapy is an established mental health profession that was first developed in the mid-20th century and is continuing to grow in popularity due to its effectiveness as a therapy.


    The art therapist guides individuals through self-evaluation to identify and develop personal goals in a safe, non-judgmental space and is trained to thoughtfully suggest art media and art therapy interventions, meeting people where they are. As a result, each participant may experience the same art therapy session differently. Our art therapists do not psychoanalyze artwork to decipher the individual’s internal struggles or to find hidden meaning in their artwork. Instead, art therapists look for potential indicators that may have a deeper significance and help the individual explore what that means to them. Art therapists aid individuals in the development of tools that promote self-reflection, mindfulness, perspective, and insight. Artmaking can be used as a metaphor for other life experiences, and how people choose to respond to them.



    • Self-care & addressing burnout 
    • Depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns 
    • Trauma/PTSD 
    • Chemical dependency 
    • Coping with medical illness and injury (TBI, Spinal Cord Injury, Stroke, Cancer, MS) 
    • Empowering people with disabilities, at-risk youth, people experiencing homelessness 
    • Phase-of-life concerns (middle age, retirement, etc.) 

    Art therapy takes into consideration that sensory communication is more universal than language, which is why art therapy may be beneficial to people who have not had success with traditional therapy. Art therapy can allow people to express thoughts, experiences, and feelings they may find difficult to talk about. In cases of emotional distress, art therapy is one tool that can help a person better regulate themselves and improve cognitive processing like planning and decision making. Art therapy is accessible and versatile, which many people with different life experiences find beneficial.

 So, what’s the difference between Art Therapy and Art Classes?

 (Or, what we do and do not offer)

Art Class (You won’t Get this With Us)Art Therapy (This is What We Do!)Therapeutic Art (We Do This Too!)
Art instructor – may have fine arts trainingArt therapist – master’s degree in art therapyInstructor – can be an artist or art therapist – training varies
Student/teacher relationshipTherapeutic relationshipSupportive relationship
Classroom environmentConfidential spaceLocation varies
Focuses on technique and the finished productFocuses on the process and self-expressionFocuses on exploration and relaxation
Art techniques are taughtTargeted art tasks but no “wrong” way to make artExperimentation is encouraged
No focus on emotional processEmotional process and its exploration are centralAwareness of feelings but not explored in depth


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