I am a great advocate for art as a therapeutic intervention. I have seen it transform my clients and condense the therapeutic process. Still, art therapy is a misunderstood field, and many people wonder what an art therapist actually does. The power of this therapeutic technique comes from the process alone. Creating visual representations of emotions through artwork can help clients access, express, and verbalize thoughts that are normally difficult to identify. Art, even without being paired with a verbal component, is therapeutic, decreasing both stress and anxiety.
Often, when I have a client participate in art therapy, they fear that their work won’t look “good enough” and that the product will be judged. But, in art therapy, the merit of the piece is not important. Art therapy is about freedom of expression by any means necessary, verbal or visual, collage or crayola.
As an art therapist, I am sensitive to the fact that it is harder for some people to communicate verbally than it is for others. It is important that I give my clients a variety of means to express their unique perspective. If people have a hard time with the literal, accessing the more abstract language of visual form can be extremely freeing and beneficial to both the client and the therapeutic process. I have seen longstanding barriers fall away when the mode of communication shifts, and a client is able to open up for the first time. Sometimes we can’t find the words, but we can find the feeling. In these moments art therapy is a powerful tool.