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What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy or Art Psychotherapy, is a Somatic (body based) Therapy that utilises the process of art making to be the catalyst for therapeutic growth. Since ancient times, imagery has been recognized as vital to healing. Imagery is the language of the unconscious. Images can yield information; create understanding; evoke expression; and transform thinking, feeling, and acting (Horowitz, 1983). Art can greatly enhance the experience of insight; it is concrete and visual, and it can convey multiple unconscious feelings and ideas (Rubin, 2001). *

Lusebrink (2004) explained how Art Therapy activates both hemispheres of the brain, this makes a unique intervention for cultivating neural pathways to process memory, visual, and kinesthetic information. Because art is a psychomotor activity, it has been suggested that it has the capacity to tap sensory memories of trauma (Steele, 2003). Art therapy in trauma treatment has been described as providing a means for resolving memory fragmentation and integrating traumatic material (Collie, Backos, Malchiodi, & Spiegel, 2006).

*Text adapted from current research in neurobiology, attachment theory, sensorimotor therapy, and the technique of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). 

The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as:

 

"an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship."

 

The term Art Therapy is now so widely utilised it can be tricky to understand what it is and where to begin. It isn't an Art Class. Clients do not need to be good at art and no "skill" is required. It is more about the process of art making than concentrating on the final product.  Each Art Therapist will approach sessions with their own background training. I lead from a client centred, trauma informed approach bringing in elements of neuroscience research and psychodynamic theory.​ The ultimate goal is to help clients feel safe, supported and empowered by the art making. 

What does this mean and how does it work?

I approach unpleasant or unwanted thoughts and feelings as an sign of a residual "alarm" stored in the body from an unresolved experience. The body and mind can struggle with the chemicals from the alarm and become overwhelmed. The alarm can be triggered at unhelpful times and cause unwanted thoughts, feelings and behaviours. 

 

Art Therapy can identify, discover and disable this alarm, in a safe and caring environment. The client can have new realisations, feelings and containment that cannot be achieved in talk Therapy. It is a non-verbal way to process and re-integrate the problem. By re-engaging and regulating the bodily system that built the alarm with art making, we can safely go back to it and turn it off. This then reduces the issues and helps clients reach their goals.

**alarm - adapted from Dr Russell Kennedy, "Anxiety Rx"

** Initial intro adapted from "A Short Term Therapy Approach to Processing Trauma: Art Therapy and Bilateral Stimulation" Tally Tripp. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 24(4) pp. 176-183.

Who does AT?

I work with children (aged 4 and above), teens and adults. Clients are of all genders and various backgrounds.

There is no requirement for a client to have any skills or experience in art making or Art Therapy.

What can it help with?

I specialise in helping clients with:

  • Trauma (Medical or Physical): PTSD

  • Anxiety Disorders (Select Mutism, OCD)

  • Depression 

  • Stress

  • Increasing confidence and self-esteem 

  • Emotional Regulation Issues

  • Improving Relationship to self and others.

  • Increasing self- awareness

What will I need?

- All art materials are provided (please specify if there is something special you would like to use).​*

- Aprons, gloves and cleaning equipment is provided but you may like to wear clothes you wouldn't mind getting art materials on. 

- You can bring art materials from home.

* There may be an additional cost if you would like to source a specific material.

Findings

Many studies have been completed on Art Therapy and it’s effectiveness in a wide range of client groups. It has been found proven to:

  • Reduce symptoms of Depression.

  •  Reduce symptoms of PTSD.

  •  Reduce Anxiety symptoms.

  • Increase self-awareness

  • Regulate the Nervous Symptom

  • Increase Neuroplasticity

  • Increase self-esteem

  • Improve relationships

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