Arts Therapy

art therapy session

Arts therapies are constructive non-verbal approaches that allow mental health patients to adequately express themselves through the creative process.  Painting, composing music, and writing a poem are different artistic ways through which patients may communicate feelings when verbal expression just seems too inadequate or just not preferable at the moment.

Arts therapy is also known as expressive therapy or creative arts therapy.  The emphasis of this therapy is on the creative process rather than on the resulting work of art.  This is why people with no artistic background can still benefit from arts therapy because the final artwork is not judged by its aesthetic value.  Instead, the therapist helps the patient find his voice about his personal issues by letting him go through the creative process, one which gradually helps him understand himself better.

How Is Arts Therapy Conducted?

After completing your project, your therapist will help you think about your creation and about how it relates to your feelings and experiences.  For some people though, the mere exercise of creating art somehow is enough therapy in itself.  The artistic activity allows them to discover many things about themselves and helps them process these revelations as well.

Art therapy may be conducted in a group session or on a one-on-one basis.  This type of therapy lends itself well to many forms of mental illnesses.  It is often used in conjunction with other kinds of therapy like talking therapies.

Art therapy has proven to be a successful form of treatment because it has helped many learn to deal with, and in some cases even bounce back, from their mental health issues.

Who is Best Suited for Arts Therapy?

Arts therapy is recommended as treatment for many behavioural, emotional, and mental problems.  They have proven to be particularly helpful with patients experiencing:

  • detachment from their feelings
  • resistance to talking therapies because relating their experiences may be too painful at the moment

People with these mental problems may benefit from art therapy:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Eating disorders (i.e. bulimia, anorexia)
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress-related issues
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Social challenges

Types of Arts Therapy

Art Therapy has varied modalities:

Music Therapy

Communication with one’s therapist or group members is through playing, listening, or singing a musical piece.  It may involve playing instruments such as the drums, maracas, chimes, bells, and wood blocks.

During a music therapy session, the therapist listens to the music you create or present and tries to understand the emotions you are trying to convey.  In response, they play their own music which is geared toward making positive changes in the way you feel.  Music is the medium the therapist uses to help you explore your feelings and think about the way you relate to people and your environment.

Dance Therapy

When body movements are a more comfortable mode of expression for a patient, then dance therapy is recommended.  Dancing can help a patient express emotions he may find difficult to talk about.

Dance therapy is also beneficial for those who:

  • are feel disconnected from their emotions and from things in daily life
  • have been sexually or physically abused as the experiences show in the way a person holds and moves his or her body
  • have a difficult time with physical contact
  • have physical symptoms from their mental illness.  Ex. Depression manifests as pain
  • have negative perception of their body and therefore have eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia


Dramatherapy involves participating or creating skits or plays in which one needs to act out, use body movements, facial expressions, role play, or mime to express what one feels or wants to convey.  For those who are not particular about acting, dramatherapy also offers behind-the-scenes roles such as lighting, directing, costume or scenery creation, or even being the audience.

Art Therapy

Art therapy involves using art materials and other physical objects to help the patient connect with the world around them.  Clay, paint, pebbles, and crayons are just a small portion of art materials a patient may use to express himself through artwork.  A camera may also be used to take photos as glimpses to your past emotions and memories.

Finding an Arts Therapist

Arts Therapy is regulated and therefore has certain regulations about how this type of therapy must be conducted.  Make sure that your art therapist is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

art therapy