What is Art Therapy?

In my first blog post I wrote about what music therapy is. Since I want to become a music therapist myself I was able to put that together quite easily. So now the next step is to write about art therapy. And even though I don’t know much about it I’ve done some research! And here is what I have found.

Let’s start with the definition from the American Art Therapy Association (AATA):

Art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.

Art therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.

AATA’s definition is pretty self explanatory, so I will just clarify a few things.

Noteworthy is that the AATA defines art therapy as “integrative.” This idea is linked to the concept of integrative medicine. It is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center. This method addresses physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Creative therapies like music and art therapies are conducive to this approach. They allow the patient to heal in ways that are not either physical or mental or spiritual, but often a combination of all of them.

In Sam’s Fans we believe that art (and music) therapy in any setting can be useful and we applaud that these two professions reach to a wide array of different populations. Nevertheless, Sam’s Fans mission is to ensure these services reach seriously ill patients and their families. Thus, our mission aligns better with some goals from AATA’s definition than others. Cultivating emotional resilience and resolving distress are two important ones for our organization.

What Art Therapy is Not.

It would also be useful to clarify what art therapy is not. Art therapy can only be practiced by an individual who possesses the required training, certification, and/or state licensure. Therefore, it is not bona fide use of art by non-art practitioners. This practice is not a modality which can be learned in a workshop, it is a profession. And it is also not adult coloring books!

art therapy

Art therapists work with individuals, couples, families, and groups in diverse settings. Some examples include:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Veteran’s clinics
  • Private practice
  • Psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities
  • Community clinics
  • Crisis centers
  • Forensic institutions
  • Senior communities

The world of art therapy is big! So we hope that you find these blog posts informative in learning each time a little bit about music and art therapy! For a more detailed blog post check this one out!

Consider getting involved with Sam’s Fans to support this wonderful profession!

This blog post was written by Samuel Gracida, Sam’s Fans intern. 

Nikki McCarthy

Nikki McCarthy

1 Comment

  1. […] Art therapy is an evidence-based treatment that utilizes a variety of art media and psychology based processes in order to reach therapeutic goals and improve overall quality of life. An art therapist is a board certified masters-level clinician who works with people of all ages across a broad spectrum of practice. Art Therapists value artistic expression as an avenue to better understand underlying psychological needs and to access personal history that is not available through verbal means alone. Art mirrors the inner life of the artist and we may discover the client through their decision-making, creative behaviors, and material use in an art therapy session. The creative nature of art therapy allows for flexibility. An art therapist may utilize this with both group and individual clients! […]

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