Many people find it helpful to communicate their feelings using art materials as well as or instead of words. Sometimes there aren’t words to describe your feelings, or it can be difficult to find them, or too many words can mask how you really feel. Creating an image can stimulate storytelling, making it easier to talk about problems.
Art psychotherapy can give a voice to people who might not be feeling heard or understood due to illness, injury or social circumstances.
Anyone can benefit from art psychotherapy; you don’t need any previous experience or skill in art making to take part in and benefit from it, as the emphasis is on the emotional experience of art making, not on the aesthetic quality of the finished art product.
Art Psychotherapy, along with other health care professions such as Psychology, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, is a regulated profession; you must be qualified and registered with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) to practice as or call yourself an Art Therapist or Art Psychotherapist in the UK. The HCPC regulate our professions and ensure we meet strict standards for training, professional skills, conduct, performance and ethics.
The British Association of Art Therapists is the professional body for Art Therapists and Art Psychotherapists and their website www.baat.org provides another source of information about Art Psychotherapy.
The art psychotherapist will help the person to explore and ‘play’ with the art materials. The process of playing with art materials and creating an image or art object provides the person with a non-verbal language with which to communicate feelings to the art psychotherapist. It also allows more unconscious feelings to surface and be recognized and thought about.
The art psychotherapist pays careful attention to the feelings that arise through the creative process, looking together with the client at the images created and working with the client to understand their experiences, find meaning and bring about change.
Art psychotherapy takes place at the pace of the client and artworks and feelings are only talked about if and when the person feels ready to talk about them. The process of understanding the meaning of an art image or experience of the art materials is a collaborative process; the art psychotherapist and client work together to think about the many different levels of meaning that might arise in a session.
After a session, the art psychotherapist stores the artworks in a safe and secure place that is private and confidential. Images are shared with the art psychotherapists' clinical supervisor. Clinical supervision is an important part of the work to ensure that the art psychotherapist is providing the best possible standards of work and that the therapy is safe and effective. Outside of supervision, images are only shared with other professionals who are involved in the client's care if it is thought to be helpful to the individual's care and recovery.