What is Art Therapy?

art therapyWhat’s on this page:
Who can use art therapy?
What does an art therapist do?
Why use art therapy?
Do you need to be talented?
Why Art is a Wonderful Form of Therapy



Definition: Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Skip to: What Does an Art Therapist Do?

The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.

You don’t need to be talented or an artist to receive the benefits, and there are professionals that can work with you to dive into the underlying messages communicated through your art, which will aid in the healing process.

Art therapy can achieve different things for different people. It can be used for counseling by therapists, healing, treatment, rehabilitation, psychotherapy, and in the broad sense of the term, it can be used to massage one’s inner-self in a way that may provide the individual with a deeper understanding of him or herself.

Additional Definitions of Art Therapy

Art therapy, sometimes called creative arts therapy or expressive arts therapy, encourages people to express and understand emotions through artistic expression and through the creative process. From The Free Dictionary

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art materials, such as paints, chalk and markers. Art therapy combines traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with an understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process, especially the affective properties of the different art materials. From Wikipedia

Art therapy involves the creation of art in order to increase awareness of self and others. This in turn may promote personal development, increase coping skills, and enhance cognitive function. It is based on personality theories, human development, psychology, family systems, and art education. Art therapists are trained in both art and psychological therapy. From The New Medicine

And from the AATA, the definition of the profession:
Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.

Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals. Art therapists work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities. They provide services, individually and as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; open studios and independent practices.

Who Can Use Art Therapy?

For the most part, anyone can use art therapy. In a world where there is a multitude of ways to communicate and express one’s self, expressive arts therapy is yet another. One of the major differences between art therapy and other forms of communication is that most other forms of communication elicit the use of words or language as a means of communication. Often times, humans are incapable of expressing themselves within this limited range.

One of the beauties of art as therapy is the ability for a person to express his/her feelings through any form of art. Though there are other types of expressive therapies (such as the performing arts), expressive art therapy as discussed here typically utilizes more traditional forms of art…such as painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, or a variety of other types of visual art expression.

What Does an Art Therapist Do?

Art therapists are trained in both therapy and art, and have studied and mastered both psychology and human development, having received a Master’s Degree. There are various requirements for becoming an art therapist as well as certifications which means they are masters when it comes to using art as a springboard for everything from a general assessment of another person’s state to treatment for aiding serious illness. Art therapists can work with people of all ages, sex, creed, et al. They can help an individual, a couple, a family, or groups of people and depending on the situation, there may be numerous therapists working together as a clinical team.

Art therapists are trained to pick up on nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are often expressed through art and the creative process, concepts that are usually difficult to express with words. It is through this process that the individual really begins to see the effects of art therapy and the discoveries that can be made.

Why Would I Use Art Therapy?

As with most any therapy, art as therapy is generally used as a treatment for something – usually as a way to improve one’s emotional state or mental well-being. Expressive arts therapy doesn’t have to be used only as a treatment though. It can be used to relieve stress or tension, or it can be used as a mode of self-discovery. Many people can stand to use some sort of creative outlet.

Do You Need to be Talented?

Absolutely not. And you need not be “afraid” of expressing yourself through art. Though it may seem different and unnatural at first, it is typically because the individual is not used to communicating via the arts. The creative process can be one of the most rewarding aspects. Coupled with an art therapist, you should gradually, if not immediately, feel comfortable with this newfound form of expression. After all, the goal is not necessarily to create an art masterpiece.

Art: A Wonderful Form of Therapy

Expressive art therapy is the use of creative arts as a form of therapy and is a fantastic field that has proven to work wonders in many people’s lives. It can help someone express themselves, explore their emotions, manage addictions, and improve their self-esteem. It really helps children with developmental disabilities, however; art therapy is awesome because it can help anyone!

Have you ever noticed how much music, or doing an activity like drawing relaxes you after a long day? That is because it is very therapeutic. If you see a professional art therapist, they can help you interpret the feelings that pour into your design, and even help work through and resolve problems. Studies have also proven that colouring, even as an adult, has tremendous benefits. Unfortunately, colouring, drawing, painting, and playing music is very taboo in the adult world. Break away from that social expectation, and see how freeing it is to let your creativity flow.

Music, art, and dance are the main expressions for this variety of therapy. Music therapy can be a mix of playing instruments, listening to music, and singing. Dance therapy utilizes dance and movement. It makes sense that it is so effective–lots of endorphins are released into your body when you shake it! Art therapy can be a mixture of drawing, colouring, painting, sculpting and pretty much everything else you can think of that is artistic. These are all things people love to do as hobbies, so why not use it to better yourself and show yourself some love?

Besides helping someone better their emotional being, art therapy is great for many other things. It can help general illness. Art is a fabulous escape from feeling icky. Art therapy can help someone who has a cancer diagnosis. Battling cancer takes both a very physical and emotional toll, and is even a struggle accepting the diagnosis. Art and dance are powerful expressions of these emotions, and can help relieve a lot of stress, anger, and sadness. Someone in need of therapy to have some relief after a disaster would also be an excellent candidate for artistic therapy.

There are so many uses and benefits to expressive arts therapies, that can help drastically improve people’s lives for a plethora of reasons. Even if you don’t need serious help, it can be a great way to release stress after a long work week. Art therapy is a growing field that is being more widely accepted, so it is also an opportunity as a career field! Be bold, be creative, and be expressive and give art therapy a try!


  1. says

    I’m so happy to find this site- I am currently looking into a career in art therapy and I can see that this site will be really helpful to me.

  2. Denise Beirne says

    could you please inform me if you have any art therapy courses that I can attend?

  3. HanaN says

    Hey Admin am a Jordanian psychologist, just want to ask you if i can do therapy through art & what i need to be qualified .

    thanks for this useful blog .


  4. says

    hello Admin, I’m interested in getting into the Art therapy field and wondering about the job prospects. Would you be kind enough to provide some insight?Thanks.

  5. ong says

    thanks for sharing, hope that you will conduct a course in Malaysai too, i am working in a community center, most of the time dealing with kids, and i found that art theraphy really works.

  6. Amy says

    I was wondering if you had any specific techniques for children that have never met a parent and dealing with feelings of abandonment and parent rejection?

  7. says


    i am wondering if this so called art therapy can be useful for the people connected with cultural and historical disturbance on the mind. like, having weird dreams of gods and goddesses killing them, etc.
    i would be very thankful if any kind of ideas or information provided.

    Yours Thankfully,
    Pranaw Gorkhali Pradhan

  8. anonymous says

    Pranaw Gorkhali Pradhand,
    It’s not “so called” art therapy. It is and actual field that provides hope and healing for others. Sorry to be short and sensitive about it, our feild is special and needs to be held at the same level of respect as any other field.

  9. Alayna Gale says

    I’d just like to say that I have a big WANT to have a career in art therapy. I love helping people, and to help them through art is the best thing I could have ever dreamed! I was wondering though if I should just go to college for it, or should I see an art therapist first to get the flow of how they see things and how I see things through art.


  10. Cherie says

    I am so happy i found this website. This will be good place to do some research over Art Therapy which is what I am doing

  11. J.C. Miller says

    Hi! I just discovered this site. I’m wondering who the administrator of the site is and if he/she is a credentialed art therapist.

  12. jason evans says

    Art therapy does work, some things simply cannot be expressed in words, and art always leaves a tangable fingerprint of one’s self behind which can be observed even years after making. . . not only that but i believe many times the amout of information can be related in a fraction of the time as simple taking-type therapy. i know whereof i speak. it is exellent for children and handicaped persons as well as benifitial to anyone .. artist or no. in truth, beauty, and goodness, jason.

  13. cheryl says

    Over the last year i have some how lost the connection with my daughter, so i am looking into art therapy as a way of opening the communication with her again. Any help in understanding art therapy would be great. thanks

  14. Erica says

    It is my life’s greatest dream to help girls who have been saved from sex trafficking and exploitation through art therapy. I’m wondering though, would it be better (for my BA) to double major in art and psych or art and sociology? my school doesn’t have an art therapy major so i have to double major to get both aspects (which i don’t mind doing at all since both subjects interest me so much).

  15. Anne says

    I was looking into this as my major- however, I have stress and anxiety problems and don’t know how long it’d take to get this degree and if it is is realy stressful or not. I do art well, and am doing a community college course in the fall for this, but do not know how long it takes and if it is in demand.

    Thanks and please someone reply!

  16. Andrea says

    I am 16 years old and I have wanted to be an art therapst for the past year, but I am having a hard time finding a specific college that specifies in art therapy and I was wondering if anyone had any advice for me to finding one.

    Thanks, please reply!!

  17. Jane says

    I have a keen intrest of getting into art therpy , does anyone know how i would go about doing it as i am only appling for university this year. Can you go straight into a uni and do the course or do you have to do anther type of course to lead to art therpy. And do you know where you can study this ?

  18. karina avilez says

    i bearly graduated high school and currently looking for a career to study in college something to do with art … and this really helped …. thanx . ! i will look into this field more closely (:

  19. adriana saraceanu says

    I want to use art therapy in wprking process with abandoned children
    can u give me some ideas of drawings?

  20. Erin says

    TO JANE, Lesley University in Boston has a wonderful art therapy program. I am also looking to get into the art therapy field. Currently I’m a graphic designer/presentation specialist and dislike the judgement of art that comes along with corporate graphic design. If I were to go back to school, I would choose Lesley University for Art Therapy. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to go back to school, so if there are any leads out there for intro jobs in the Boston area, please email me at erinnyy@gmail.com.

    Much appreciated!

    Good luck everyone :)


  21. says

    I found your web site in a google search for art therapy. My name is Norka Perez and I am interesting in searching more information about art therapy and meeting some professionals art therapist in order to decide if this is the right path for me. I will like to see if you can recommend me of some art therapist or places like hospitals, schools in NY that I can coordinated to meet in my scout visit. NY is one of the cities that I am considering to study and work in this field.

    I will appreciated any given information.


  22. ayenisque says

    hi! i would like to study art therapy. what is the nearest school that offers it. im in the philippines. thanks!


  23. says

    I want to be an art therapist so bad. Recently last year by grandmother gotten sick and before she was diagnosed with Dementia, I saw an interview with a local nursing home that took care of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s and they would bring in art therapist for the patients. A couple of months later my grandmother gotten diagnosed with dementia. I live in Oklahoma and I can not afford to move out of the state for my chosen profession and I was wondering if there are degrees that are required for art therapy. I was wondering about getting my Bachelors in Psychotherapy online. Would that help me to get started and count towards masters in art therapy?

  24. sam says

    hey, im a junior in high school and ive been looking into art therapy a lot recently and i think i would be interested in it a lot because i love art and i love helping people but i was wondering if becoming an art therapist requires you to take any foreign language credits…someone please respond

  25. says

    I was wondering if I can use this on an article in Salus Magazine. I can give your the writers credit and send you a copy of the magazine. What do you say?

  26. Melissa says

    i am very interested in getting my masters degree in art therapy. I will graduate may 2013 with a Bachelors degree in social work. I am wishing any and all information regarding art therapy that someone can give me. Thank you so much.

  27. deanna says

    thank you for posting this. i recently had a sign that help me understand what i really want to do. and art therapy is that.
    if you can email me. and can you give me advice. thank you

    -Deanna Marie

  28. Rachel says

    I am a LMSW and LOVE art therapy! I developed an art therapy group in a residential substance abuse facility based on motivational interviewing with great success. I am now at a crisis center and have started another art therapy group based more on free association. I do not have an art therapy degree; however, I am still able to use art in my clinical work. As a social worker, I hold the viewpoint that my clients are the experts on the meaning of their art. My role is to help them process whatever insights, thoughts, and emotions they experience while creating or sharing their art. This site has given me a lot of great ideas…thank you!

  29. h.m.s.c.bandara. says

    I am working as a counselor in national dangerous drugs control board in sri lanka more than 20 years.i have counseled various types of clients who have various psycho-social problems.i have understood arts,music,living in a natural environment,helping others and doing creative works are the most important things in their recovery process.i think arts therapy especially supports them to improve their thinking.so i need to know about from basics about art therapy.but i don’t know where the suitable institute or persons in sri lanka learning to this subject.if some one like to support me please guide me.thank you.

  30. zahra says

    I am a student of m.a in personality psychology. I interested in art therapy for some years so I’m doing my thesis on this field.I wanted to thank u for all the articles u put in ur weblog. they are so helpful and I am using them in my work for the thesis.

    Good Luck for u

  31. Danica says

    Hi! I am Danica, i am currently doing my undergraduate thesis on Art therapy for physically abused children. i am a bit confused whether the goals of art therapy is the same on how art therapy is used in children. if so? what could be the possible similarities and differences of it…
    thank you so much!

  32. William Hall says

    At age 64, it has been a long time since I met Joan Kellog thru Sallee Rigler, at her Art Therapy Workshops on Consciousness, along with Helen Bonney, in Balti,Md. She told me that I was already doing Art Therapy with my Vet rehab patients, and to forget about a named degree. So we can do AT because we have a degree, do AT because we get results,without a degree, or do AT and call it something else, or use AT & have a different degree title altogether? Your choice.She was an amazing pioneer of this field still searching for recognition.

  33. says

    Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this website. It’s simple,
    yet effective. A lot of times it’s very difficult to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appearance. I must say you have done a very good job with this. Also, the blog loads extremely fast for me on Safari. Exceptional Blog!

  34. says

    this is a silent therapy method i have used in my art school. now i feel i want to help children and young people, the elderly and those who carnt handle stress and worry, hurt and anger.please let me open up an art school and an art therapy center in your area. my art school is the only private center for art and assessment based subjects. please let me know if i can be of assistance.

  35. says

    I believed in art therapy after attending “Painting From the Source” course (by Aviva Gold) held in Kripalu yoga center last summer. It was an amazing experience and it released emotions that I never knew existed. As a psychologist I also observed other participants and was amazed to see that this one week course produced therapeutic effect equivalent to months if not years of therapy.
    Best Regards,


  36. Autumn Lewis-Eaddy says

    I believe that Art Therapy is a new way to express people’s minds and let them be free. I’m glad that I found this website because it gave me more information on what Art Therapy is and what I want to do.

  37. NWphysio says

    Never thought of art as a form of therapy to cure our mental illness. Thank you for sharing this article.

  38. Cynthia Vroome says

    I am interested in creating a spiritual creativity that that could be a bible study and art therapy. Could you tell me if there is such a form of art therapy?

  39. Camille Smith says

    Dear Art Therapy Blog,

    For reasons which remain a mystery I have, sadly, stopped receiving your updates. I have tried to re-sign up. However, Google chrome says I am already subscribed. Is there a way for you to check on your end if I am still subscribed? Thanks so much. I sorely miss receiving your updates. Be well, Camille

  40. Kim Salsman says

    Art is such an important outlet for processing and growth. I’ve worked as a Master’s level therapist for over 20 years and have been gravitating toward Creative Arts Therapy for the last couple of years. It truly allows clients to begin the examination of issues and ultimately address them in a safe manner.

  41. Sandra says

    I was referred to this site from the World Education University website where I’ve started a class “Introduction to Art Therapy.” I am interested in learning more about art therapy, how to present it and how to use it as part of a self help program.

  42. Rachel says

    I have a question. I recently graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a Bachelors in Illustration. I was told Illustration carries over into fine arts since so much of art today is layered over the other. Is this true? Or would I have to go back to school in order to get the requirements for fine arts? Also, Do I specifically need a fine arts degree or can it be something more focused like illustration? I am a painter and drawer and have been doing it since I was 6. I want to help people. Art is very revealing and can show so much about a person and hidden emotions in the subconscious. I also love physiology and would not mind taking classes for it if I knew what to take.

  43. Paola Andrea Arcila Perez says

    Quisiera saber en américa latina que países se encuentran mas a la vanguardia en la formación de arte terapia y en donde puedo consultar sobre ello…


    Hi I am so glad i came across this site. I am considering using this to work with carers in residential home with traumatized children. I would appreciate to know if you offer any online courses. The information here is interesting.

  45. shaheen says

    i am msc nursing student. I need to conduct the study on art therapy for adolescents. can I get the procedure for art therapy

  46. Sophie says

    I’m currently looking into becoming an art therapist as a career. I’m 16 and choosing my A levels. I’ve chosen Psychology but also Product Design instead of Art. Can I still become an art therapist on those options or would I have to swap my Product Design for an Art course? Also, after college, where would I need to go and what would I need to do to follow this career path?
    Thank you in advance

  47. T says

    Can someone advise me where to work as a Art Therapist in Singapore? Pls contact me. What are the qualification required and skills. It seem limited career potential in Singapore. Thank you.

  48. Latika Joshi says


    i am a school counsellor and do use art therapy with children. It has always helped me specially with younger ones. For them it is difficult to express verbally probably because they themselves are unaware of such feelings and pain. Now, i want to pursue some short course or summer school to have value addition and professional learning of using art as therapy. I would be glad if, someone can suggest me a course worth doing.

  49. Kelsey says

    I am in the stages of recovering from an eating disorder, I am 19, I did complete my college course in dance performing arts my results where distinction stars. Unfortunately dance and body image got too much in the end so I have left dance. I would love to work with other people who suffer from mental illnesses, I have learned so much myself and I would love to be able to help others. I was just looking for abit more advice in this therapy, I would love to work with helping the mind, changing negative mindsets.

  50. Bri says

    Im currently in high school and these articles are helping a lot in making choices. I can’t wait to start schooling for this!

  51. says

    I am taking a careers in psychology course, and I need to preform an informational interview on a person of my field of interest. I have found interest in the field of art therapy, and I am wondering if anyone in this field would be willing to assist me with this task.


  52. Ed says

    My wife suffers terribly with Fibromyalgia and just started art therapy. So far so good and she looks forward to her next appointment.

  53. Nikki Duncan says

    Hello…. I don’t even know where to begin. I am a 42 year old single mom of 4 children ages 8 to 20. I have spent my whole life living for everyone else and taking care of everyone else. Ive been through the ringer after 17 years in a really messed up marriage and 4 beautiful children that became my reason for everything in my life. I am now been divorced 5 years and am engaged to an amazing and supportive man. It’s time for me to figure out my purpose for me and my life besides mom. I have had my Graphics design degree since I was 20. I do not love graphic design. I do love everything hands on creative. Whether it be creating murals with paint or creating beautiful gardens with my hands in the dirt. I’ve always said that my hands in paint or the dirt is my therapy. Never realizing that it actually can be. God blessed me with the gift of art and creativity. I have always wondered why he gave me this gift and felt I was supposed to use it to make a difference. Now, I actually think finding this sight is showing me that I can. But now, I do not even know where to begin. Or if it is even really possible with 3 kids still at home as a single mom. I work from home and have crazy children schedules. Can you help me or give me advise on where to even begin….? I think it is time for me to start putting my future and me on my list of important things.
    Thank you,
    Nikki Duncan
    Rawson, Ohio

  54. Divya Bagaria says

    Amazing page. I am currently trying to get in a college in UK for art psychotherapy. This article has really helped me know more, it has explained everything very simply and I am really glad to have a better understanding of it now. :)

  55. Lonnie says

    I just finished my sophomore year of high school on may 21. And now looking a colleges and I wanted something in the art field and then I found this and I fell in love with it… so now I’m looking for the best college for art therapy… do you recommend one?

  56. Jillian says

    I’m in high school and I’m strongly considering being an art therapist. I’m currently writing a paper on art therapy and this site is a perfect source. Thank you.

  57. Rebecca says

    its very opening to all parents and children out from all over the US that want to get involve in art therapy because its helps them overcome their
    emotions and mental health so that they can better themselves to join art therapy as their hobby.

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