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Art therapy – what it is and how the therapeutic power of art works

Published: 21/05/2024
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Date of the last update: 21.05.2024

Art therapy can be awe-inspiring. Using art as a therapeutic medium opens up completely new possibilities for therapists. It can be a tool for dialogue and help their clients express emotions. Implementing art forms (such as: dance, painting or music) helps to work on subjects that are important or difficult to patients. It is worth learning about and exploring the nature and power of art therapy and  incorporating it into your practice.

Table of contents:

  1. What is art therapy?
  2. What are the methods of art therapy?
  3. Learn about the functions of art therapy
  4. How art therapy helps – find out the benefits!
  5. How to become an art therapist? Who can provide art therapy?
  6. Summary

You can read this article in 5 minutes.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a form of therapy that uses a creative process as a tool aiming at the betterment of the mental and emotional health of individuals. It stems from the data based belief that creative artistic expression is a powerful tool in the therapeutic process. It enables individuals in expressing themselves and solving problems in non-verbal ways. 

In art therapy practice, patients engage in various art forms, such as painting, sculpture and collage, during therapy sessions led by a qualified art therapist. Through creative activities, participants have the opportunity to explore their emotions, life experiences and work on self-discovery and personal development.  It can be happen as an individual practice or in a group format, such as developmental workshops or therapeutic groups.

What are the methods of art therapy?

Art therapy is divided into two main categories: 

  • Educational art therapy is a therapeutic approach that uses creative art-making within educational settings to support students’ emotional, cognitive, and social development.
  • Medical art therapy, is a practice which focuses on supporting people with mental and physical problems and helps them express their emotions related to illness, trauma, and medical treatment through art-making.

It is noteworthy that in art therapy there are many different methods that can be used depending on the therapeutic goals and preferences of the client. A few popular art therapy methods include:

  1. Painting – patients paint pictures or create works using paints, brushes and other painting tools to express their emotions, feelings and experiences.
  2. Sculpture – this involves creating three-dimensional forms using different materials such as clay, plaster, wood or metal, allowing patients to express themselves through shapes and textures.
  3. Collage making – patients create compositions from different materials such as prints, magazines, textiles or found objects to represent their thoughts, dreams or goals.
  4. Drawing – this is one of the most basic forms of art therapy, in which patients use pencils, crayons, pastels or inks to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions on paper.
  5. Movement art – this method uses body movement and dance as a form of expression, allowing patients to express themselves through gestures, body postures and rhythm.
  6. Theatre arts – patients take part in various theatre exercises, improvisations or dramatisations to express themselves, experience different roles and explore their emotions.
  7. These are just some of the methods used in art therapy, and each method can be adapted and modified according to the needs and preferences of the client and the therapeutic goals.

Learn about the functions of art therapy

Art therapy has many functions in the therapeutic process. Here are some of them:

  1. Expressing emotions: Art can be a means to express deep emotions and experiences that can be difficult to express in words.
  2. Supporting the process of self-development: Through creative activities, patients can explore and develop their identity, abilities and potential
  3. Treating trauma: Art therapy can be an effective method in treating people suffering from trauma, helping them to process difficult experiences.
  4. Improving communication: For people who have difficulties with verbal communication, art can provide an alternative way of expressing thoughts and feelings.
  5. Increasing self-awareness: Through creative processes, patients can better understand their thoughts, feelings and needs.
  6. Reducing stress and improving wellbeing: Engaging in the creative process can provide relief from experiencing stress and improve overall wellbeing. Sensory integration: For people with sensory disorders, working with a variety of art materials can help to integrate sensory stimuli.

How art therapy helps – find out the benefits!

Counterintuitively, art therapy is an effective support for people with a variety of mental and emotional ailments, helping them in their healing process and personal development.

  1. For people suffering from depression: Helps to express difficult emotions and thoughts through creative activities, which can bring relief and improve wellbeing.
  2. For people with anxiety disorders: Art practice is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, helping patients to identify and control their anxiety through expression and reflection.
  3. For people with PTSD: Art therapy provides a safe place to express trauma and process difficult experiences through art, leading to a reduction in PTSD symptoms and improved psychosocial functioning.
  4. For people with eating disorders: Working with an art therapist helps patients explore their identity and relationship with their bodies through creative expression, which can support healing and body acceptance.
  5. For people with mental health problems: As an effective form of complementary therapy, supporting traditional treatments and helping patients to manage the symptoms and challenges of their illness.
  6. For people with emotional self-regulation problems: Art practice is a tool for learning the ability to manage stress and regulate emotions through creative expression and exploration of feelings.

How to become an art therapist? Who can provide art therapy?

In order to become an art therapist, it is necessary to go through the appropriate stages of training and gain professional experience. The first step is to obtain a university degree, usually in a field such as fine arts, psychology, occupational therapy or art education. 

It is important to acquire a thorough knowledge of psychotherapy and the skills to work with both groups and individual clients, including both children and adults.

Subsequently, it is advisable to attend specialized courses and training in art therapy, which include both theory and practice. After gaining relevant qualifications and practical experience, art therapists can apply for certification or licensing in their jurisdiction, which will allow them to legally practice art therapy. Art therapy can only be practiced by a qualified art therapists with the appropriate training and certification, who use art for therapeutic purposes to support the healing and self-development process in their clients.

Check out also: How to become a naturopath?


Art therapy is an important field that offers numerous mental and physical health benefits through the use of art as a therapeutic tool. Through a variety of art forms, such as painting, dance, music or movement, art therapy enables clients to express their emotions, grow personally and understand themselves better. It is a therapeutic method that can be effective in working with both children and adults, in both educational and healthcare contexts. Through art therapy, patients can find motivation for life, develop their skills and build positive relationships with their environment. It is worth noting that art therapy can be used as a stand-alone form of therapy or as a complement to other therapeutic methods, depending on the needs of the client. Therefore, its diversity and flexibility in working with different groups and problems is worth appreciating.

Naturally Balanced
The Naturally Balanced team includes experts in their field who create the best content for you, collaborating on their knowledge and experience.