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  • Jane Kenington

What is Art Therapy?

I am an Art Psychotherapist. I get asked so many times 'What is Art Therapy?' - so I am going to give you my take on it from my experience of both providing it and being on the receiving end in my own therapy. This is a brief overview; I will explain more in later posts.


What is Art Psychotherapy?

Art therapy is a type of psychological therapy (rather than an art class or hobby) that uses creative practices like drawing, painting, collage, and sculpting to provide an accessible way to communicate and contain thoughts and feelings. We often say it is helpful when there are no words to describe feelings, or the feelings are too difficult to express with words and this is true but it is so much more than that too. It can be done at the beginning, during or at the end of a conversation; the 'art' can be the words themselves. It is what happens whilst you are being creative that is where the magic lies. And, for me, it is magic - and a total privilege to be a part of.


Who can do it? Anyone can do Art Therapy. All ages; all problems. You don’t need any artistic ability and there is no requirement to produce art in your sessions. It is totally up to you. Sometimes, if it seems right, I might give a nudge and suggest drawing something out, because by doing that we often gain a different perspective, but mostly it is totally up to you what you do and when.

How does it work?

This is the magic. Well, I think it is magic. Whenever we do anything creative, and get in the flow as it were, we are accessing our unconscious. The brain is made up of very many layers; we are familiar with logic and reasoning and also being creative but when we are creative we tend to bypass the logical side of our brain and as a result we can sometimes see things very differently. As a trained Art Psychotherapist, I am able to pay attention to not only the image you create but the way you created it and use this information to reflect on whatever is going on for you. It isn't me doing all the work at all - we do it together - it's your work, your creativity, I just help you see things you might not have noticed.


Let me share with you - today, I did the image below. I was feeling out of sorts and decided to do a bit of drawing because it helps me feel better. I started with a small circle and you can see how it ended up. What do you see? A virus? A sea creature? A seed pod? I see a soft centre, protected. And after I did that I could be more understanding towards myself. Magic!


Doodles can be helpful sometimes!


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