What Is Arts Therapy?

Arts therapy is a form of treatment that uses creative modalities, including art-making, drama, and movement to improve and enhance physical, mental and emotional well-being. Arts therapy is a form of psychotherapy which embraces a variety of theoretical frameworks. It differs from traditional art-making or performance in that the emphasis is on the process of creating and meaning-making, rather than on the end product. A registered arts therapist has completed a masters level programme and focuses on developing a therapeutic relationship with clear boundaries and goals. Arts therapy can be practiced with individuals as well as groups.

How does Arts Therapy Work?

Arts therapy is based on the belief that the process of engaging creatively in drama, movement or art- making, within a therapeutic relationship, supports changes in the client’s inner world, and helps them to develop a more integrated sense of self, with increased self awareness and acceptance. It assists with improving the client’s personal growth and insight, processing of traumatic experiences, and resolving of inner conflicts. Arts therapy gives the opportunity for non-verbal communication, allowing clients to express feelings safely so that they can cope better with stress, improve their judgment and have healthy relationships.

Advantages of Arts Therapy

Arts therapy can help people to resolve conflicts, develop interpersonal skills, manage behaviour, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and achieve insight. Arts therapy can encourage clients to:

  • express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise
  • explore their imagination and creativity
  • develop healthy coping skills and focus
  • improve self-esteem and confidence
  • identify and clarify issues and concerns
  • increase communication skills
  • share in a safe nurturing environment
  • improve motor skills and physical co-ordination
  • identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth.

From ANZATA, The Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association, http://www.anzata.org