Art Psychotherapy / Art Therapy

The terms Art Psychotherapy and Art Therapy can be used interchangeably. 

This is a type of psychotherapy that uses art-making as a primary means of communication. As with other forms of psychotherapy, the relationship between the therapist and the client is of central importance, however, the artwork in art psychotherapy offers another essential element.

The art materials are used in a wide variety of ways depending on the young person's needs. Everything used in the session is valued and kept safely as part of this process, including, for example, fragments remaining when a child has decided to alter a model or tear strips of paper. These can be re-visited in subsequent sessions as themes and patterns emerge, helping to increase a sense of identity / personal history.

Children and young people may experience this form of psychotherapy as less intimidating than a talking therapy. It can be helpful in enabling them to communicate aspects of themselves which they have previously considered unacceptable or difficult to articulate.  It can also provide a safe means of expressing powerful or destructive feelings, which can be contained, transformed, or symbolically disposed of through the artwork. The expression of complex emotions in a supportive therapeutic space can bring about change and growing self-awareness.

When a young person is referred to us for art psychotherapy there is a brief assessment period to check whether art therapy is likely to be helpful. Following this, art psychotherapy usually takes place on a weekly basis.  Regular reviews of the psychotherapy with the child and parents /carers are planned as part of the treatment.

What is an Art Psychotherapist?

Art psychotherapists are state registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and abide by the Code of Ethics of Professional Practice as set out by the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT).  They are trained at post-graduate level and have a working understanding of art processes, underpinned by psychodynamic theory and a sound knowledge of therapeutic practice. 

Who can benefit from Art Psychotherapy?

Those referred to art psychotherapy do not need to be ‘artistic’ – the art psychotherapist is not primarily concerned with the aesthetic, but with the process of art-making in the context of a therapeutic space. It is particularly useful for children and young people as it works with their natural sense of creativity and playfulness, and can be helpful for children who are ‘hard to reach’ in other relationships.

Art psychotherapy is a flexible intervention which can be adapted to meet the child’s stage of development. It is also possible to work with parents/carers and the child together and can include other family members. Sometimes we work in conjunction with a systemic or family therapist.

Art psychotherapy can be beneficial where there are difficulties associated with low mood, depression, anxiety and those struggling to adapt to the impact of life events. These states of mind can be hard to articulate verbally. It is particularly effective for clients who need to explore identity issues and those who experience low self-esteem. Art therapy can be valuable for children who have experienced extreme disruption and trauma. It is widely used in attachment difficulties, including with children who are in the care of the local authority or have been adopted. It may be used as part of a treatment package or multi-professional assessment for children with complex or co-morbid difficulties including ADHD / ADD and other developmental disorders.

Group art psychotherapy can be helpful when there is a need to work with dynamics occurring in a group setting such as at school or within a childrens’ home, or where peer difficulties or emotional isolation may be a central issue. In such groups an interactive model may be particularly beneficial and group art-making can provide a focus for this.

How Private is it?

What is said, done and made in Art Psychotherapy is confidential and we do not show artwork or share information about our patients with anyone without their prior consent.  However, we are required by law to share with the relevant agency any concerns we may have about a person’s safety.  If this situation were to arise we would endeavour to discuss this with our clients/the family first.