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What is Art Therapy?

by Andrea Juliano, LCAT, LPC, ATR-BC

A therapy client drawing with pastels and practicing art therapy.

I’ve been asking and answering this question for many years! And art-making in a therapy setting can mean different things to different people. I like to think I’ve perfected my go-to answer when meeting someone new and getting the dreaded yet well-meaning question, “So, what do you do for work?”

Art therapists are clinicians with master’s-level or higher degrees trained in both art and therapy. We are credentialed mental health care professionals who care deeply about the communities we support, and work to improve people’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being!

In my opinion, Art Therapy provides the opportunity for clients to expand their emotional processing from beyond talking with their choice of materials, color, movement, and subject matter. Individually, art-making can increase self-awareness, build confidence, and decrease stress. Community-based and group Art Therapy can support strengthening social skills, navigating conflict, and strengthening empathy. Ultimately, it can enrich your life through art-making, creative process, and human experience!

But, when in doubt, we can always look at the art and lean into curiosity, what does the art say?

Art Therapy is practiced in hospitals, schools, veteran clinics, private practice, psychiatric and rehabilitation centers, community clinics, crisis centers, forensic institutions, senior communities, and more. Individuals, families, couples, communities, groups, children, teens, adults and the elderly can all practice Art Therapy! (Everyone is welcome at my upcoming workshop, details here!)

So, what are the benefits of Art Therapy? It can…

Improve cognitive and sensory motor functions

Foster self-esteem and self-awareness

Cultivate emotional resilience

Promote insight

Enhance social skills

Reduce and resolve conflicts and distress

Whether you’re an artist, craft pro, or simply like to color at a leisurely pace, the art-making process and product are beneficial and inspiring. However, practicing Art Therapy with an Art Therapist goes beyond that. Art Therapists are specifically trained to provide support in a safe space and be there next to you as you discover more about your art and yourself!

Try it out yourself at my upcoming workshop, Intro to Art Therapy. I hope to see you!

Read more about the American Art Therapy Association

Andrea specializes in anxiety & depression, art therapy, grief & loss, and trauma. To learn more about Andrea, read her bio, here.

Looking for a therapist or unsure where to begin? Get started on our booking page, here.