Some people have come to question the use of the term “art therapy” on this site. While there is nothing wrong with this, I feel that this is a topic worth addressing as there may be other readers who feel the same way.
One visitor to the site, Fiona, made the following comment on the benefits page that I’d like to address:
“I can’t help but question the suggestion that art therapy can be learnt and done at home on your own minus the therapist. I believe a significant portion of the therapy in art therapy is the supportive, witnessing and therapeutic safety net that the presence of a qualified art therapist provides. I agree that art work created away from the art therapy environment can be a stress reliever but argue it’s not therapy; just art.”
I am not saying that anyone can learn “art therapy.” Fiona’s interpretation of art therapy may differ from mine. The intrinsic value of therapy is going to be different for everyone and subject to the individual’s needs. Some people may need or want an art therapist…and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’d encourage it if that’s what the individual wants or needs. However, I don’t believe everyone always needs an art therapist present to achieve therapeutic results.
I very much disagree with Fiona’s last statement about art work created away from an art therapy environment not being therapy, just art. I feel like that really undermines what art therapy is about. I know this is a rather cliché approach, but I’m going to pull the dictionary out for the sake of meaning.
The definition of therapy according to dictionary.com:
- the treatment of disease or disorders, as by some remedial, rehabilitating, or curative process: speech therapy.
- a curative power or quality.
- any act, hobby, task, program, etc., that relieves tension.
These definitions lend themselves to exactly what this site is about. From my perspective, therapy is better defined by the individual. If walking around a park helps you relieve tension, that’s therapy. If painting is a remedial or rehabilitative process for you, it’s therapy…more specifically, it’s art therapy. Any act or hobby that is curative or healing in some way would be considered therapy. If that act or hobby is art, then that is art therapy.
You absolutely do not need an art therapist present to benefit from art therapy. However, the benefits will most likely be greater with an art therapist present…I have always said that and will be the first to admit it. But some people may not want to seek “professional” help right away, and in fact, they may want to do some exploration on their own, in private.
Art is a form of communication, just like talking, writing, or any of the various forms of non-verbal communication we use daily. Whether we all would like to admit it or not, talking to a friend in a time of need can be therapeutic. Writing in your journal can be therapeutic. Creating a piece of art can be therapeutic. In a lot of instances (not all), it’s the act of communicating that is, in and of itself, therapeutic.
So, where does art end and therapy begin? There is no easy answer to that…but I think it depends on the person. Simply put, if creating art is therapeutic, that’s art therapy. If there is more “therapy” that happens after the art…well, that’s just good ‘ol therapy.