What is Art Psychotherapy/ Art Therapy?
Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy which uses art, as well as words, to communicate. Psychotherapy helps someone to get to know themselves and other people through building a therapeutic relationship.
Art therapy can enable a person to explore difficult or blocked feelings, to develop social skills, and to make changes in their life.
The relationship between the therapist and the client is central to art therapy, but it differs from other therapies because of the art making process and the images produced.
Art therapy offers an opportunity for expression and communication to each client. It can be particularly helpful to those who find it difficult to think about or verbalise feelings.
What does art therapy provide:
• A safe space to explore feelings that may be difficult to express verbally
• A therapeutic relationship in which the person has the opportunity to make decisions and choices in a creative way.
• An insight for the art therapist into how a person views the world
• A setting in which a person can develop interactive and social skills
Art therapy is not about teaching someone how to draw or paint. You do not need to be ‘good’ at art.
Who uses Art Psychotherapy?
Art therapy can help people with emotional or psychological problems such as:
• Difficulty expressing feelings, with possible presentation through self-harm and/or challenging behaviour
• Limited or no means of verbal communication
• Difficulty establishing or maintaining relationships
• Experienced or are about to experience a major change
• Experienced distress caused by anxiety, depression, loss or bereavement
• Suffered abuse, bullying, trauma
This list is not definitive
Why is Art Psychotherapy used at Jeesal Cawston Park?
Our patients all have a diagnosis of learning disability or autistic spectrum disorder. These diagnoses have a negative impact on communication ability. Difficulties in communicating feelings and needs can lead to deterioration in mental health and an increase in behavioural problems. Art Therapy offers an alternative method to communicate – through the image making. Words are not necessary as the process of art making and reflecting on the image made can be used to communicate and express.
Many of our patients have not had psychotherapy before and have histories of abuse, trauma and difficult life choices. The use of art therapy is a gentle way of looking at a person’s internal world, enabling them to express unresolved issues or trauma and to move towards making changes necessary to improve their lives.
Where did the profession come from?
Art making has been used since the earliest civilisations to communicate and express. Cave paintings and hieroglyphics stand testament to man’s ability to distil meaning into discreet images. We may no longer speak these ancient languages but we can understand something of these people’s lives and culture through the marks they made. This innate ability to communicate in images is the basis for therapeutic work in art psychotherapy.
The roots of art therapy as a distinct profession lie in the scientific and cultural movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Society became interested in the use of art to express the imagination (19th century) and as a potential tool to diagnose mental illness (18th century).
Originally Art Therapy in the United Kingdom was allied with Occupational Therapy and seen as a therapeutic form of engagement for those in long-stay hospitals after World War One. It was Adrian Hill who coigned the term ‘Art Therapy’ in 1942 – during World War Two. He had discovered the potential of art making to explore psychological issues while convalescing in a Tuberculosis hospital himself. He advocated for the healing power of art. The work of pioneers such as Edward Adamson in large War Hospitals, where he used image making in large open-studios to aid the convalesce of soldiers, assured the establishment of art therapy as a distinct profession in the medical field.
Art Therapy has also been influenced by Modern Art movements of the twentieth century encouraging freedom of expression (there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ image) and psychoanalysis which provides much of the psychological basis for our work, including the use of transference. It was not until 1980 that the profession was officially recognised by the Department of Health and Social Services. In 1997 State Registration was confirmed for art therapists and the title of art therapist and art psychotherapist became protected. In order to practice all art therapists must be registered to the Health Professions Council who monitor standards of practice.
What is the differences between Art Psychotherapy and Art Activity?
|Art Activity||Art Therapy|
|Lessons & teaching art skills||No set lessons: non-directive|
|Often set themes or projects: directive||Themes are only set if they are therapeutically beneficial|
|Client must be willing to engage with art materials||Client must be willing to engage with art materials|
|The art teacher may be demonstrate how to make art||The art therapist will not usually make art|
|Need to be able to follow instruction and complete tasks||Do not need high levels of verbal understanding|
|Used as a leisure activity or to pass time||Used to help understand and process a person’s emotional life|
|Open to the public||Private and confidential|
How do I know my Art Psychotherapist is practicing safely?
• All Art Therapists must have completed a two year full time or three year part time Masters Degree which is recognised by the Health Professions Council. These Masters Courses have stringent entry requirements and place a specific emphasis on psychotherapy and art practice.
• Art Therapists must be state registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC) and abide by their professional standards and code of conduct. You can visit the HPC website (www.hpc-uk.org) to check whether an art therapist is registered.
• Art Therapists must have regular Clinical Supervision. This is a time to reflect on the work undertaken with a more experienced art therapist.
• Art Therapists should be members of professional bodies such as BAAT or IACAT. The British Association of Art Therapists website has useful information about art therapy and finding an art psychotherapist (www.baat.org).