There are many definitions and descriptions used to articulate what art therapy is and what it can be used for. In my opinion each definition contains a truth. Art therapy has come to mean so many things to so many people, that to describe it using one definition would serve as an injustice to those it has helped. However, there is a particular phrase that carries great truth for me as it is one that I created for myself when I went in search of an answer:
"Art is like an open window by which all thoughts and emotions, good and bad, can flow freely without judgment or prejudice, making space for the peace and newness that rests in the gentle breeze that follows closely behind."
Over time I have found that the best way to describe art therapy to a client is by giving them the tools from which they can create. As an art therapist I believe strongly that the art speaks for itself, and although it may be easier at times to provide a definition, no definition can speak louder or more clearly than the image itself. This is a truth I share with my clients.
Art therapy is a creative process in which the physical act of making art is the therapy. It is a wonderful option for individuals that find it difficult to express themselves verbally.
Art therapy is a gentle but effective way of allowing clients to express their feelings, thoughts, and emotions, while providing a safe environment from which to create.
Art therapy is the practice of using art itself as the means of therapy. It has been shown that art is the most natural and innate means of expression, and thus a very safe and gentle way of approaching repressed issues. I have found this to be especially true in children who find it difficult to express themselves verbally. Children naturally love to draw and create, and without knowing, they often produce images that open doors to the real issues at hand. It is because the images are drawn by the children themselves that they are more open to discussing what's behind them and elaborating on the objects and meanings within them. In my experience, because it is such a gentle process, parents find it less difficult to get children to therapy and children find it less threatening to be there. Most children end up looking forward to the next opportunity when they can draw or paint or simply create. It is because of this ease and comfort that children eventually end up finding the voice that frees them from their silence.