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What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy... 


  • Uses creative processes to improve and enhance physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being

  • Is suitable for all ages and life situations and can be done with individuals or groups

  • Works by accessing imagination, creativity and pre verbal processes

  • Can contribute towards the development of a more integrated sense of self with increased self awareness and acceptance

Art Therapy uses evidence based practice thus...


  • Works together with other Art Therapists and health professionals i.e. psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors

  • Is underpinned by evidence based research, e.g. growing research on benefits of the Arts in all areas of health and wellbeing, for example, lowering blood pressure/cortisol/stress levels

Modalities that can be used (but not limited to)

  • Drawing- using different mediums such as pencils, pastels, chalks, markers


  • Painting  


  • Clay

  • Play


  • Journaling


  • Rituals  

  • Psychodrama


  • Sand Tray work 


  • Collage

  • Bodywork


  • 3D/ sculpture 


  • Mind mapping

Myths and misconceptions about Art Therapy...


(Sourced from (

MYTH #1: Art therapy is like an art & craft class
The goal of art therapy is NOT to “teach” art, but to use art in a therapeutic manner. Some art therapists may provide assistance or instructions on the use of art materials or techniques to help in your artistic endeavours, but generally does not correct your artwork. For example, if you draw a square durian, the art therapist will not stop you. Instead, she will work together with you in understanding the personal meaning behind the image.

MYTH #2: Art therapy can only benefit people with artistic talents
You do not need to be good in art, as art therapy values the art making process more than the finished product. You will not be judged for your artistic capability or your ability to talk about your artwork. The art therapist can work with your apprehension and introduce art making at a comfortable pace for you.

MYTH #3: The art therapist will just stare in silence while you draw during the art therapy sessions
Silence can be a powerful aspect within the therapeutic relationship, but it does not define the way in which all art therapist works. Different art therapists have their personal style within the therapeutic relationship. Some will create art with you at times, while others do not. Some may encourage you to make art before you share your thoughts after the art making process, while others may intervene and ask questions along the way. The purpose is to provide a warm, trusting environment in which you can feel at ease in expressing yourself.

MYTH #4: The art therapist will know all about you by looking at and interpreting your artwork
Although art therapists are trained in understanding images and symbols, the meaning of your artwork is always derived directly from you, your personal associations and feelings.  The art therapist will help you achieve greater understanding and consider multiple meanings in your artwork by asking questions for you to consider, rather than supplying you with the answers. 

MYTH #5: Art therapy is only for people who are struggling with big issues in life
Art therapy can be very beneficial for people who are struggling with severe physical or mental conditions, addictions, trauma, or life changes.  That doesn’t mean others can’t benefit from art therapy.  You may seek art therapy as a method of promoting self-awareness and creating positive changes in life.  Art therapy is also a wonderful way to promote personal wellness, enhance performance, repair and recover from emotional hurts, build confidence and assist in personal transformation.

MYTH #6: Art therapy is only for children and people who can't communicate verbally
As art is an effective tool for non-verbal expression of stories and emotions, art therapy has been associated with children and people who could not express their emotions or situation with words.  Nevertheless, art therapy can also be a powerful way to engage adults and people from a broad range of settings.  Art therapy sessions can be available in schools, community events, art studios, non-government and government organizations, mental health facilities, hospitals, medical clinics, nursing homes, corporations and private settings.

MYTH #7: An art therapist cannot be your primary therapist because they are just art teachers
An art therapist is trained in psychoanalysis and human development, and specializes in the use of art making and the creative process within the therapeutic relationship.  A qualified art therapist is required to undergo a two year full-time diploma or degree, with up to 100 clinical placement hours under strict supervision and assessment.  Like other mental health professionals, art therapists have the qualifications to be a primary therapist and be part of a treatment team, made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech & language therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, counselors etc.

MYTH #8: Anyone can call themselves “art therapists” as long as they do art in sessions
The therapeutic use of art making can be a powerful and life-changing experience, as many intense feelings and issues may surface during the session.  Only a qualified art therapist is trained to understand and provide necessary interventions in such situation. Most art therapists are registered with at least one of the associations: Australian Creative Arts Therapy Association, or the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA). Do ensure that you are working with a qualified art therapist.   


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