Art therapy is a human service profession that utilizes art media and the creative process along with therapeutic techniques. The creative processes involved in art making are constructive by nature and engage the “whole-person” – psycho-socially, cognitively, and physically. The results of artistic efforts can be readily seen: strengths and problem areas can be identified with the help of the therapist, and progress can be documented visually.

The art therapist

Art therapists are required to hold a Master’s degree in art therapy from an accredited program. Art therapists at Cleveland Clinic are required to be registered and board certified through the Art Therapy Credentialing Board. Art therapists are proficient in a wide range of art techniques, counseling theories, and approaches. They are skilled clinicians who can work to facilitate growth through the use of spontaneous art, assessment, and planned therapeutic approaches. Each art therapist develops a personal style based on his or her own philosophical beliefs.

Setting and clients

Art therapists work with individuals, families and groups in a wide range of settings including medical, mental health, rehabilitation, hospice, education, developmental, and private practice.

Art therapy is a powerful approach for people of all ages, races and socio-economic status. Artistic talent is not required; a willingness to participate in the process is all that is necessary. The art process provides an outlet to channel anger, manage anxiety, promote relaxation, and help patients cope with difficult issues or emotions. Without words one can express joy, frustration, despair, anxiety, and growth.

Art materials

Materials are chosen to correspond with the interests, physical condition and energy level of the patient. Media may range from watercolor or acrylic paints, bead work, oil and chalk pastels, to clay, tissue art and collage. The art therapist may use a “hand over hand” approach to assist patients who have difficulty manipulating the materials. Sample art tasks may include: creating a painting of fears or frustrations, assembling a collage about family, creating a mandala, or working on a memory quilt.

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