What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is literally the amalgam of art and psychology. Because art is innately therapeutic, the creation of artwork can be an emotional release or a mode of communication. The process of creating art yields self-expression that in turn helps people resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. Dialogue may occur in regard to the actual product made or the process of creating, discussed. In this way, the art itself may become a springboard to further conversation.
The use of art materials can serve as a non-threatening approach to stressful topics or a playful way to interact and build rapport and trust. There is not always a comprehensible finished product at the end of an art therapy session. Instead, the process is what is meaningful. When a product is made, this image may have significant meaning, which should be interpreted only by the artist.
What are the key differences between art and art therapy?
The first key difference between art and art therapy is in the process and product. In art, value is determined by the quality of the finalized product. In art therapy, process is frequently more significant than a finished product.
The second key different between art and art therapy is in the meaning and interpretation. In art, the artist’s meaning may be interpreted by an audience and critiqued or criticized. A finished art product may be interpreted as “good” or “bad”. In art therapy, the artist alone makes meaning. There is NO “right” or “wrong” product in art therapy.