The Healing Benefits of Art Therapy
Find out how the creativity of art therapy can help children and adults cope with illness or difficult emotions.

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The Healing Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy uses the creative process to improve a person's well-being. It provides an outlet for expressing thoughts and emotions. It promotes relaxation. It may also serve as a distraction for people in severe pain.

Art therapists hold a degree in art therapy or a related field. They encourage and coach their clients in the creative process. This may be in any form, including painting, drawing, collage and sculpture. Participants don't need any art experience.

A therapist may then discuss the created works with the artist. This lets the person explore feelings and work through issues in a constructive way. Artists may choose to expand on their work or move on.

Art therapy sessions may be individual or in a group. They may include caregivers or family members.

Art therapy may be a useful tool with children. Their art may reflect emotions or fears they aren't able to verbalize. It may be used with kids who are grieving, for example. However, it might not go far enough to help children in severe situations. A 2008 study didn't find strong evidence that art therapy reduced mental harm after a traumatic event.

How art therapy can heal
Possible benefits of art therapy include:

  • Self-awareness. Creativity can express thoughts and emotions in a new way. Artists may not even be aware of these feelings until they begin therapy. These revelations may help them begin to deal with these feelings.
  • Personal fulfillment. Creating a piece of art can build self-esteem.
  • Relaxation. Art therapy can help relieve stress and anxiety. It can serve as a source of stress management.
  • Social connection. Art therapy can be done in a group setting. This allows participants to support one another. Artists may choose also to display their work and discuss it with others.

Who may benefit from art therapy?
Anyone may benefit from art therapy. It can be used to cope with many diseases or issues, including:

  • Cancer
  • Depression and other emotional disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Eating disorders
  • Disabilities
  • Chronic illness
  • Substance abuse and addictions
  • Family and relationship problems
  • Abuse and domestic violence

Medical centers and hospitals may offer art therapy with inpatient care. It can be practiced in many other settings, such as:

  • Art studios
  • Support groups
  • Psychiatric centers
  • Schools
  • Drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs
  • Nursing homes
By Emily A. King, Contributing Writer
Created on 03/06/2009
Updated on 01/14/2013
  • American Cancer Society. Art therapy.
  • National Cancer Institute. Getting help for your symptoms.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. Task force finds cognitive behavioral therapy effective for children and adolescents exposed to trauma.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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