Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication.In art therapy art media and creative interventions are used to encourage self-expression and reflection within a therapeutic relationship. Art is not used as diagnostic tool but as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing.Art therapy is used to encourage personal growth and increase self-understanding.
Art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone. Kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic opportunities invite alternative modes of receptive and expressive communication, which can circumvent the limitations of language.
In ‘The Shadow of the Object’, psychoanalyst Bollas (1987) considers the aesthetic moment, reverential and awesome, is actually a ‘crystallised’ moment in time and space related to our first aesthetic experience; the maternal holding environment. His seminal work explores the idea of memories known but unthought and traces of these memories we all hold, benevolent or otherwise. They are essentially wordless states from a time before language sponsored by the mother.
Art psychotherapy, being primarily a non-verbal therapy, has the potential to uncover these phenomena that seem to determine the way we are in the world. Through dream work, image making and projective identification, (that is, the therapists ability to ‘hold’ what cannot be ‘thought about’), it can become possible to unlock the deep, felt experiences that reside in the unthought known.
Art therapists are master-level clinicians who work with people of all ages across a broad spectrum of practice. Honoring individuals’ values and beliefs, art therapists work with people who are challenged with medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth.