Myths about Art Therapy

“The Healing Arts”

So, as many of you know, I am on my way to a Masters degree in Art Therapy. This field comes so second nature to me but the more I talk about it, the more I realize how many people have no idea what Art Therapy means. Since today was my first day back at school I think it is a good time to clear up a few myths about what Art Therapy is and how it helps.

MYTH #1: Art Therapy is like an arts and craft class where you learn to paint, draw, and make artsy things.
The goal of Art Therapy is not to “teach” art but to use art in a therapeutic capacity. The Art Therapist might sometimes give instructions on how to use the materials or specific methods, so as to facilitate your artistic endeavor.

MYTH #2: Art Therapy can only benefit people with artistic talents.
You DO NOT need to be good at art. Art Therapy values the art making process more than the finished product. You will not be judged by your artistic ability or your ability to talk about your artwork.  The Art Therapist can work with your apprehension and introduce art making at a comfortable pace with you.

MYTH #3: Art Therapy is only for children and people who can’t communicate verbally.
Art is an effective tool for non-verbal expression of stories and emotions. Art Therapy has been associated with children and people who could not express themselves or their situation with words. Nevertheless, Art Therapy can also be a powerful way to engage adults and people from a broad range of settings such as schools, mental health facilities, medical clinics, nursing homes, community centers, art studios, corporations, and non-profit agencies.

MYTH #4: Art Therapy can be very beneficial for people who are struggling with severe physical or mental conditions, addiction, trauma, or life changes.
That doesn’t mean others can’t benefit from Art Therapy. You may seek Art Therapy as a method of creating positive changes in life. Art Therapy is also a wonderful way to wellness, performance enhancement, emotional reparation, recovery, and ultimately transformation.

MYTH #5: The Art Therapist will just stare in silence while you draw during the at therapy session.
Silence can be a powerful aspect within the therapeutic relationship, but it does not define the way most therapists work. Different Art Therapists have their own personal style within the therapeutic relationship. Some will create art with you at times, while others will not. Some may encourage you to make art before you share you thoughts, while others may intervene and ask questions along the way.

MYTH #6: The Art Therapist will know all about you by looking at and interpreting your artwork.
Although sometimes Art Therapists are trained in understanding images and symbols, the meaning of your artwork is always derived directly from you, your personal associations and feelings. The Art Therapist will help you achieve greater understanding and consider multiple meanings in your artwork by asking questions for you to consider, rather than supplying you with the answers.

MYTH #7: The Art Therapist cannot be your primary therapist, because they are not real therapists.
An Art Therapist is a trained psychotherapist who specializes in the use of art making and the creative process within the therapeutic relationship. A registered Art Therapist is required to undergo a two year full-time Master degree training program, with nearly 900 clinical placement hours under strict supervision and assessment, before becoming  qualified. Like other mental health professionals, Art Therapists have the qualifications to be primary therapist and be part of a treatment team, made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, social worker, etc...

Krista Wanous


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