What Does an Art Therapist Do?

When people think of therapy, they often picture themselves reclining on a couch and uncomfortably pouring their hearts and souls out to stern-looking therapists with notepads. This is a common misconception, but a misconception nonetheless. Therapists have myriad ways of hearing clients’ stories and helping them heal and improve daily living. Art therapy is a popular modern form of therapy that is both healing and enjoyable for both clients and therapists. Here are five tasks art therapists do.

Listen By Looking

It is difficult for clients to open up and tell their deepest, darkest fears and secrets to complete strangers. Art therapists allow clients to express themselves through doodling, coloring, painting, sculpting, and any other method of visual creativity appealing to each unique individual. Many art therapists create right alongside their clients. This eases the intensity of eye contact, the awkwardness of silence, and the pressure to find the right words.

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Make Emotions Tangible

Difficult experiences and emotions are hard to overcome because people can not see or touch them. Art therapy makes this impossibility possible. Clients and therapists can together on the clients’ thoughts and emotions. They are revealed in the chosen colors, strokes, lines, curves, and grooves. The same piece of work changes constantly, just as one human changes constantly based on experiences and emotions. Art therapist Tally Tripp reflects upon this in the Huffington Post.

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Find Beauty in the Breakdown

Therapeutic art is not meant to be pretty or reflect skill. The uglier the client’s experience, the uglier the piece usually is. Yet, most find examples of therapeutic art to be beautiful. It is difficult to gaze at the process of a human being uncovering and healing from their deepest pain, and not find the outcome beautiful. The Huffington Post offers a catalog of famous pieces of artwork that in fact were the artist’s therapeutic processes for overcoming death and loss.

Fit Medium to Client

Art is truly therapeutic when the art therapist fits the particular client and struggles to the right medium. For example, clients who are struggling with something heavy such as a trauma benefit from a slow and steady process that evolves gently, such as oil painting or sculpting. Clients who feel the need to have someone else witness their experiences benefit from phototherapy. Clients who are searching for some answers benefit from going through magazines, cutting out things that speak to them, and pasting it together in a collage.

Help All Kinds of People

This type of therapy helps almost any type of client. People of all ages, races, and religious backgrounds can access it. In fact, it is a good way to infuse the therapeutic experience with one’s own culture. Since there are so many different ways to create art, it is proven effective with a wide variety of mental health issues. It is an excellent tool for those with developmental disabilities, as it taps into a nonverbal intellect.

Art therapists help clients tap into difficult emotions. They do not stare down their clients and ask them a series of prying questions. Some people enjoy talk therapy. For those who do not, or are unable to benefit from it, art therapists offer a pleasantly expressive alternative.