Maarit Rivers

Therapist Supervisor

Northern Beaches, NSW

0417 462 115

Art Therapy

Art is an integral part of our everyday life. Out of art making has developed a therapy called art therapy in which one creates art in a therapeutic setting. Art therapy can explain our deepest emotions, which are difficult to explain with words. Art has healing powers, and art has been used through the ages. Art’s healing power has been recognized for millennia. It has been in shamanic practices that link with music, art, dance, drama, and holistic healing rites.

Art is part of the language we use to communicate. Without thinking of it as art, people are creative every day. It expands verbal communication, which includes both conscious and unconscious meaning. For example, we send visual messages of who we are and how we feel by decorating our homes, dressing, and doing our hair.

All children paint and draw and build worlds and images with whatever materials they can access, be it sand, sticks, wire, cardboard or more sophisticated paints and colouring pencils.

Art therapy can be divided into two different forms. Healing and insight are gained already when making art and are further enhanced by talking about the end product in a group or an individual therapeutic setting. There are times when the whole story can only be described through art. Even when art is viewed purely as a leisure activity, it has healing benefits.

Art therapy incorporates lateral thinking and problem solving. In art therapy the client creates art drawing, painting, and sculpture.

I believe that art can be the language for communication if other communication methods fail. Art is a valuable tool for communicating with people from various linguistic, social, and educational backgrounds.

As one of my assessment tools, I use the draw-a-person test to determine the person’s relationship in the world and how they think about themselves—observing the client’s process as they create art, such as the client’s facial expressions, body movement, and voice. I also look for archetypes and symbolism emerging in the art.

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