The Healing Properties of Art Therapy

If you are a non-artist like many of us (let’s face it, we’re the ones who consistently draw in stick figures and circles, all the while admiring the artistic work of other people whom we believe actually have “talent”), it is likely that even hearing the phrase “art therapy” produces anxious thoughts that just might be myths.  In fact, here are a few common misconceptions of art therapy that many believe before taking the time to learn the facts:

Myth #1 – You have to know at least something about art to be helped in art therapy.

Fact – Knowledge of art has nothing to do with how this therapy is used.  Technically, one who participates in art therapy does not need to know (or learn in the process) anything about art. To the contrary, “A goal in art therapy,” according to the American Art Therapy Association, “is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being”, i.e. not to study art itself.

Myth #2 – Participating in art therapy would be embarrassing because you have to be artistic to get anything out of it.

Fact – Art therapy is not about impressing the therapist (or anyone else) with your ability, nor does it have anything to do with the quality of what is produced.  It is the experience of art-making—the use of media, the discovery of the creative process and the exploration of feelings, all under the leadership of a trained professional—that fosters self-awareness and facilitates and sustains that desired sense of personal well-being.

Myth # 3 – Art therapy is used only for specific diagnoses, and you have to have something seriously wrong with you to benefit.

Fact – It is true that art therapy is used in a multitude of diagnosis-specific situations (e.g. depression, anxiety, cancer, childhood trauma, dementia, autism, caregiving) and in cases of natural disaster and combat trauma.  However, it also true that nearly all of us can benefit from embracing art therapy for personal growth and development!

Myth # 4 – The effectiveness of art therapy is unproven.

Fact –Countless scientific studies have demonstrated the efficacy of art therapy to achieve its intended purpose. Its value is recognized around the globe, and it appears to be here to stay.

It is the misunderstandings—i.e. the myths—that tend to keep us at arm’s length from an effective therapeutic process that has been delivered to millions by extensively trained and skilled art therapists. Art therapy has seemingly boundless opportunity for emotional healing and growth, regardless of our circumstances.  To experience it for yourself, find a credentialed art therapist in your area by contacting the American Art Therapy Association or the Indiana Art Therapy Association (INDIATA).

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