Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Art Therapy

The premise behind Art Therapy—using art for a psychotherapeutic purpose —is that creating allows children and adults to express what is uppermost in their minds more authentically than talking with a therapist.

Art Therapy helps the psychotherapist understand a person's perceptions and feelings about what has happened in the past - or what is happening in the present. Looking at the artwork and talking about what was created also helps the individual find a way to communicate what may be hard to say in words. Art Therapy can help a diverse range of children and adults, and is a meaningful expressive experience for those who involve themselves with it.

Sometimes art expresses emotions, thoughts or conflicts quite graphically, as in the sculpture pictured below:

Sometimes art conceals, disguises or expresses symbolically. What do you see in this child's painting?

The purpose of Art Therapy is to help express concepts that a person may not be able to articulate. The drawing, painting, collage, or sculpture can then help bridge artistic expression into verbal expression. And from there, healing begins.

Some of the benefits include of Art Therapy*:

Self-discovery: At its most successful, Art Therapy triggers insight and emotional catharsis.

Personal fulfillment: The creation of a tangible reward can build confidence and nurture feelings of self-worth. Personal fulfillment comes from both the creative and the analytical components of the artistic process.

Empowerment: Art Therapy can help people visually express emotions and fears that they cannot express through conventional means, and can give them some sense of control over these feelings.

Relaxation and stress relief: Chronic stress can be harmful to both mind and body. Stress can weaken and damage the immune system, can cause insomnia and depression, and can trigger circulatory problems like high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats. When used alone or in combination with other relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, Art Therapy can effectively relieve stress.

Symptom relief and physical rehabilitation: Art Therapy has a long history with the medical field as well. This type of therapy can promote physiological healing for children and adults who experience chronic pain, are recovering from a stroke, have had a heart attack or other catastrophic surgery, have cancer, AIDS, or a terminal illness, etc.

Hey, make your own online art at and express yourself at

Artpad Painter




*Find Articles. "Art Therapy" accessed @ http://www.findarticles.com World Wide Art Therapy Associations


Fallen Angels said...

Art plays a huge part in our healing process. The majority of our ortwork is done away from T, but our little ones color there when they present themselves. I think the act of coloring actually gives them a focus besides the talking...and of course, what they draw is often a huge message. I am going to post a few pieces we have done on our blog today. I find it interesting that the sculpture you posted is a recurring theme in some of our pices...I will post one of them today.


Single Ma said...

WOW - art therapy can release stress? Is it a specific type of art, like abstract? Or just any art? This is interesting. I'm buying a new house soon and I've been thinking about investing in some art, but I'm not sure what kind. If I can decorate and relieve stress at the same time, then that's a winner!

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Warrier,
That would be so wonderful to post some of your work. Art is a healing experience.

Dear Singlemom,
Any kind of art. From doodling to fine pieces of work. The idea is to express yourself any way you can. Any way you can use art to help ease tension and beautify your life is a win-win, I agree!


alan said...

Thank you Deb! I hadn't actually seen it documented, but knew it had to exist! Bending a "blue note" with a trumpet when I could still play always "let things out" much more efficiently than my limited vocabulary ever could!


jumpinginpuddles said...

we used to do wood carvings then jigsaws which we framed and painted on the outside surroundiung it, then calligraphjy with designs around it. Like warrier the littles colour in or paint and we sketch faces and other things, but writing is also art and we do that a lot more these days.

Id it is said...

Art and music can be manna for a tormented soul. They need to be made readily accessible to those depressed/ angry/ lonely.
Your posts are always informative Deb.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Alan,
Bending a blue note would be a great way to express yourself. The creative arts are wonderful for so many things.

Dear JIP,
It is so great that you have so many forms of creative expression.

Dear Id It Is,
I couldn't agree more. BTW, I lov your posts too. Coming over now for a visit.


scrappy rose said...

I almost took an art therapy course at the last Adlerian summer school I went to... I'll have to check it out more closely next time.

Dawn said...

we used art a lot with some of the kids i was working with. it was especially useful with the kids that had stopped speaking entirely.

i've spent so much time on the artpad site. it's so much fun :)

"N" Search of Ecstasy said...

I agree that art does help us to heal and it soothes our soul. I suffer from aniexty and panic attacks. When I'm having alot of anxiety I will draw. It helps to calm me, although I never really thought about it in the therapeutic way you dscribe.

I think I will post a couple of my drawing in my next post. Thanks for giving me the idea!

Meow said...

Wow, that is really interesting. I always believed kids draw, or create in an artistic way, what they are feeling. Often I have seen pictures drawn by kids who are very unhappy deep inside, and it is really reflected in their drawings. So sad, but also helpful. Luckily my daughters artwork is always happy !!!
Thanks for stopping by my blog, it was great to meet you. I will be back here often, and will back-track through your archives. Really interesting stuff. Thank you for sharing.
Take care, Meow

Wendy C. said...

During my work as a medical social worker, I used to host a weekly support group for women in our county jail. We would alternate between art therapy and guided imagery. The women often told me how the sessions helped them cope with the stress of being incarcerated and apart from their families. I think I got just as much out of the experience as they did!

Carolina Introvert said...

I don't draw anymore, but I am starting a pottery class next week. My friends have all been warned to expect lopsided vases for Christmas next year. I hope it turns out to be therapeutic as well as enjoyable.

Thanks for your site - you talk about the most interesting things!

A Flowered Purse said...

You know I studied art in school and they say that Muench did the picture Scream when he had migraines and he also did some of his work when he had them. I look at that pic sometimes when i get a migraine an it truly depicts it perfectly! i always doodle when i am stressed and love to paint and draw. My kids love it too. It really is a stress reliever here!
Have a great week Dr Deb!

A Flowered Purse said...

LOL I meant Munch I think LOL I watched a lifetime movie on Muenchenhausen (sp?) syndrome and Muench was on the brain LOL but i think you got my drift

Sunnie Dee said...

It was interesting to read this. I have never done any art therapy as part of therapy but I know I doodle alot and sketch particularly when I am on edge.


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Scrappy Rose,
I think it'd be exciting, but that's my 2 cents!

Dear Dawn,
It must have been intriguing to see the creative works of these children.

Dear N Search,
Great. I'd love tos ee them, as I'm sure many of your readers would too.

Dear Meow,
I see you alot when I make my visits so I decided to drop by. I love cats and know you do too! See you again soon.

Dear Wendy,
What a great experience. The use of creativity offers so much in the healing and coping. And I guess you really got to see that.

Dear Carolina,
They will love your art, wobbly or not. The important thing is that it will be unique....from you.

Dear Dianna,
I know about Edvard Munch's migraines. When I see that picture, I am able to really feel pain and anguish. Amazing how art can translate feelings and emotions. You are so cute, by the way!

Dear Sonnie Dee,
I love learning new things too :)


Marj aka Thriver said...

Great topic! I wanted to go into art therapy in college but my lil' state supported school had no program for it. Went into commercial art instead. Art has really helped me in my CSA recovery. Now I'm back to wanting to help others w/website, etc. and I've got such a huge list of stuff I want to add to my site...now I'm going to add art therapy to the list. Thanks!

Deb S. said...

After reading your post, I realized that I could use a little art therapy. This is a very informative article.

Intermission said...

Right on, Deb. I love looking at what gets created. Beautiful stuff out of great pain, loneliness, healing, etc. Although it is not necessarily my primary intention, I know my writing is a form of therapy, and I pour my problematic self into characters.


Heidi said...

Add me to the " I shoud try art therapy list as well". ..Except I'm just not very good at ART ..I have tried in the past but i give up to quick if it's not coming out the way I want it to.

Thanx for the idea ...Maybe I'll try again. It would probably take my mind off certain issues that I'm going through.

Clare said...

Great post again Deb. I also read that music is also a great therapy too in the same way as art and probably writing too. Anything expressive can be a therapy in it's own way can't it?

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Marj,
I think it's so great to add that to your list. Can't wait to see what else you do on your blog.

Dear DCS,
Creating is something that our fast paced word doesn't really allow time for. I doodle, sketch, color and paint as often as I can. It makes me feel really great. Give it a try ;)

Dear Intermission,
All kinds of expression offer healing and resolution. The creative arts are a wonderful thing to be involved in, whether it is a full time profession or a part time endeavor.

Dear Clare,
You are right. So much of who we are and what we feel can be expressed through art, music, writing, even the colors we choose and the clothes we wear - and so on....


Dear Heidi,
I'm not a talented artist by any means, but that doesn't stop me from expressing myself. I hope you can find that freedom too.

for_the_lonely said...

Art therapy is indeed of great help..just look at Rosie! :) Thanks for sharing!

Love ya,

Fallen Angels said...

Spent quite a bit of time fighting with blogger yesterday, but finally got a few pics up...scroll past my (silly) ABC's Meme to see them. ;)

CrackerLilo said...

Sometimes I think that's what my wife does when she urgently needs to take to her sewing room, or knit something, or sketch. She can say so much more that way than she does verbally. (I have the dearest sketch of me exiting our home, which she transported to a plant-filled suburb, walking a panda like a dog and waving to an unseen neighbor, hanging in my cubicle at work.)

Some people just aren't that verbal, or don't know *how* to talk or *what* to talk about. I bet this would help them a lot. There are so many kinds of minds and so many ways to express feelings.

CrackerLilo said...

I don't draw or paint, but this morning, I was fascinated once again at how similar the red-leaf lettuce I was tearing's veins looked to mine, and how veins look like rivers on a map. So.


Sim Yin said...

i did thought about studying art therapy since the way it works kinda amazes me. i am not sure if i ever will.

astrorat said...

i have used art as a way to communicate with children of refugees in Malaysia, while doing psychosocial work with them, during my internship. Though it gets very tempting to 'interpret' their work, its amazing how much of fun the kids have.

Art begins, when talk ends. At least that’s how i see it :) the results for my work is outlined in your essay! How cool! :)

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Sarah,
I think Rosie is a prolific painter. Art and its expression are so great, I agree.

Dear Fallen,
I love your pictures. Thanks for sharing them.

Dear Crackerlilo,
I loved your painting on artpad. I go there to paint all the time!

Dear Sim Yin,
Trying new things, especially as a psych student, are great ways to expand your knowledge and add to your career. I hope you give it a try.

Dear Astro,
Sounds like you are doing very important work with these children. They are quick lucky to have you in their lives.

dragonflyfilly said...

yep, art therapy is my preference...i think i mentioned before that when i am feeling really down i drag out my big drawing pad (i'm not technically skilled enought to do presentable work), and i draw and cry and cry and draw some more, and stuff comes up and i somehow process it alone in my room, but it would also be nice to be able to share it with someone. i guess that's why blogging is so compelling, 'cause you can write stuff and have some sence of annonomity...

...doing a big cleanup in my office and found a copy of a Master's Thesis [The Hidden Dance ; An Intro. to Process-Oriented Movement Work] submitted to Antioch University by Amy Sue Kaplan. It was part of the required reading when i took part in a Process Work Training - it was a 2 year course, but i only completed one year (ran out of $$) Certificate Program. This was a good medium for me, as i love physical stuff, 'specially dance.

It is so interesting how things interconnect...even accross the miles we are sharing so many things that we all have in common...the old 'universal unconscious' at work, eh?

cheers for now,

Dirk the Feeble said...

That painting looks like an AT-AT Walker from Star Wars. What do you think that says about my childhood?

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Dragonflyfilly,
It's so important to have ways to express yourself. Sounds like you get a very cathartic experience with creative arts!

Dear Dirk,
I think it tells me you are a Star Wars fan. Funny, I can see what you mean as I take a re-look at the artwork!


mysti said...

Hi Dr. Serani,

I have read a few of your posts. This one caught my eye and I just knew I had to comment. Maybeit is because I love painting. One reason I paint is to release my pent up feelings. It also brings such a peace to my soul. I can disappear for hours and not even realize how long I have been painting. Thank you for talking about Art Therapy, I for one am a firm believer in it. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for sharing with all of us day to day.


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Mysti,
I am so touched that you are one of my readers. I feel that the creative arts are so healing and am so glad that you find it as well. I especially love painting too. And, please, call me Deb.


Anonymous said...

At the risk of being the lone negative voice out there, I would urge psychologists to be careful in using art therapy because it can feel stigmatizing to some people. It's irritating to me that psych hospitals seem to think that it's helpful to give adult patients crayons to color a picture. It left me feeling like a child. Art therapy can have the opposite effect as well - it certainly increased my stress level.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Anonymous,
I think I would feel infantilized too if paper and a cup of crayons were placed in front of me. Respect and integrity should always be offered in treatment. When I use creative arts for children or adults, the presentation is one that fits the age group. I like to think, "How would this make me feel?" I regret that you had such a negative experience, but I feel good that you felt safe here to express yourself.


stevie.be. said...

fabulous. i am so all about this. being able to get something out from the the inside through creativity has been a good thing for me.

chase said...

you know I absolutely agree.

cool sites you linked to, here's my painting, its so funny that it shows you how it was painted instead of just showing the painting. My habit of layering over and over, even on my real life painting is weird, im sure it says something about me, although Im not sure what, lol


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Stevieb,
I know. I feel that way too.

Dear Chase,
I am going to link to your painting now :)


cheesemeister said...

I love it. I am a firm believer in art therapy.

I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

In Peds lecture today we were talking about this with our pediatric patients!


Darni said...

That's why I draw and paint and write and paint and paint . . . just trying to focus my attention away from things that cause me great stress and high blood pressure.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Cheesmeister,
So glad you are!

Dear Milliner,
That is really terrific that Art Therapy was incorporated in a lecture.

Dear Darni,
You are so multi-talented! I enjoy the benefits of art and its expression too. I am sure it lowers my blood pressure too :)


Karin said...

You're contributing a lot here :o) Art is a powerful healing tool!!!!.

john w said...

Art is definitely a healing tool. My wife is MPD or MPG as she calls it, Multiple Personality Gifted, and her artwork has evolved from the dark, brooding,downright scarey pictures to the pictures of confident females, happy faeries, falling waterfalls in forest green. As she evolved and progressed in her recovery her artwork not only showed her the way but the destination.

Feel free to visit her gallery including art by her littles.