What is art therapy?


Amelia Russell, Staff Writer

Art therapy can help people with many conditions and enhance motor skills. Art therapists claim that artwork can help release the hidden emotions in an individual. Many people around the world use this creative form of therapy.

What exactly is art therapy?

About Art Therapy states that art therapy is a mental health and human services profession that deepens the lives of people through active art-making, creative process, and applied psychological theory.

Art Therapy is used to help improve a person’s motor functions and re-establish self-esteem and self-awareness. It also helps resolve emotional difficulties, advance social cues, enhance social skills,  resolve conflicts, and reduce distress.

What does art therapy help with?

According to Careers in Psychology, art therapy is most commonly recommended for people with medical, educational, developmental, or psycho-social impairment. Art therapy is also an effective treatment for people who are struggling with frightening memories or upsetting emotions as a result of trauma, combat, or abuse. Art therapy also helps people with serious medical health conditions or disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, cancer, depression, autism, antisocial personality or dementia.


It also can help couples attempting to restore friendly relations from emotional conflicts.  Individuals who are seeking personal growth and increased self-esteem, and people experiencing stress, anxiety, and other problematic behaviors can also benefit. The underlying goal of art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her personal feelings of well-being.

What do people do in an art therapy session?

Psychology Today says, like any form of therapy, the first session will consist of talking to the therapist about finding help and learning what the therapist has to offer.

Psychology Today tells that art therapists work with individuals, couples, and groups in different settings, including private counseling, hospitals, wellness centers, correctional institutions, senior centers, and other community organizations.

Next, a treatment plan will come up that involves creating some form of artwork. When the creation of artwork begins, the therapist may, at times, simply observe the process as work is being done, without interference or judgment.

When the piece of artwork is finished, and sometimes when it is being done, the therapist will ask questions along the lines of how feelings are affecting the artistic process, what was easy or difficult about creating the artwork, and what thoughts or memories that may have appeared while it was being created. Generally, the therapist will ask about the experience and feelings before providing any observations that they have made.

Psychology Today states that no artistic talent is necessary for art therapy to succeed since the therapeutic process is not about the artistic value of the work, but rather about finding similarities between the creative choices made and a client’s inner life.

A person’s artwork can be used as a starting point for reopening memories and telling stories that may reveal messages and beliefs from the unconscious mind to help the therapist and client overcome their struggle.

Art work done in an art therapy session
The Mindful Word

American Art Therapy Association says that art therapists are trained to understand the roles that color, texture, and various art media can play in the process of the therapy and how these tools can help show one’s thoughts, feelings, and psychological qualities of mind and character. Art therapy is a mix of psychotherapy and forms of visual arts.

Why is art therapy important?

Elevation Behavioral Health states, art therapy can help with many things. Art therapy can help improve self-management; it can help alleviate symptoms of depression, improve communication skills, address past traumas, reduce stress, improve problem-solving skills, and build self-esteem.  Additionally, it helps alleviate symptoms related to physical and mental disorders. Some other benefits are that it can help reduce pain and stress levels during recovery.

Art therapy also helps provide a positive distraction. Distractions from an addiction can be very liberating and refreshing. Art therapy can help people have a positive outlook while also keeping their minds off of cravings and negative thoughts.

How much does a session of art therapy cost?

Painting Valley

According to Thervo, the average cost of a therapy session is between $60 to $120. The average American pays between $20 to $250 per hour depending on the number of sessions that they have booked. If their session is covered by health insurance, the sessions will cost less. With health insurance coverage, rates average $20 to $50 per session. Art Therapy normally costs around $0 to $100 per session which is less expensive than the average therapy session.

Who exactly is an art therapist?

The official Art Therapy website mentions, art therapists are high-level clinicians who work with people of all ages across a broad spectrum of practice. Honoring individuals’ values and beliefs, art therapists work with people who are challenged with medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth.

What is the average income for an art therapist?

According to Careers in Psychology, art therapy salaries are influenced by their experience, location, and the ability of a practitioner to market themselves (if in private practice).

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, they consider art therapists as recreational therapists for salary purposes. Data published supports the fact that professionals working in areas of higher population density (  major metropolitan areas) will earn higher salaries.

In 2014, art therapists, who fall under the broad category of recreational therapists, earned an annual average salary of $46,060. Professionals in the top 10 percent of the category earned $69,230.


In the end, this creative form of therapy has many different uses and it has many benefits for different people.