What is art therapy?

According to American Art Therapy Association, Art Therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the therapist, use art materials, the creative process, and the resulting work to explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts,  increase self-awareness and self-esteem, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, and reduce anxiety.


A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being. Art therapy practice requires knowledge of visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms) and the creative process, as well as of human development, psychological, and counseling theories and techniques.


Where is Art Therapy offered?

Today art therapy is widely practiced in a variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric and rehab facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, senior communities, private practice, and other clinical and community settings.


What does the research say?

Research supports the use of art therapy within a professional relationship for therapeutic benefit through artistic self-expression and reflection for clients who experience illness, trauma, and mental health concerns and clients seeking personal growth.


Who benefits from art therapy?

Art therapy is an effective treatment for clients experiencing developmental, medical, social or psychological impairment. Individuals who benefit from art therapy include:

  • trauma survivors
  • persons with adverse physical health conditions such as cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other health disability
  • persons with autism
  • clients with dementia
  • people with depression


Art therapy also helps people resolve conflicts, improve their interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce stress, and achieve insight.  

Art therapy also provides an opportunity for clients to enjoy the life-affirming pleasure of creating art.

Who can practice Art Therapy?

A master’s degree is required to practice art therapy.  The degree must be from an approved program at an institution of higher education.  An art therapist must study art therapy theory, counseling, treatment planning, human development, research methods and must complete internship experiences in a variety of settings.

Source: American Art Therapy Association website.