The definition of art therapy from The American Art Therapy Assosiation (AATA) Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people, of all ages, who experience medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.

Some questions that might arise when thinking about art therapy: Do I have to be a talented to receive the benefits?  Can I do more than just draw a picture in art therapy? Is my art confidential?


The great thing about art therapy is that you do not need any knowledge or skills in art to receive the benefits. Try to remember a time when you created something. Perhaps you were a child, because it was a time before social pressures and exceptions of how the end results should look clouded your mind. As a child, creating seemed easier, but as an adult it became harder. I remember the awe I felt when I was younger and got to explore mixing paint with my hands. The paint was cold and smooth as I glided my little fingers across the page, having a lot of fun!

People develop different viewpoints on art based on their personal experiences. Some might feel paralyzed by the idea of creating art again. I will admit that sometimes it is a struggle for me, an art therapist, to create art. It is hard to come up with creative ideas and for it to not look ridiculous. Well, in reality, creating art is the easy part; it is the fear of judgment that is hard. Recalling my memory as creating art in my childhood, I did not have a fear of judgment and I simply created and immersed myself in the moment. Creating art in the therapeutic setting gives a person the space to explore emotions and be in the present moment, with the therapist helping them stay focused on the present moment instead of the end result.


Art therapy can benefit those who are less capable of expressing themselves through words, such as children; however, the benefits of art therapy extend to adults as well. Through my experience, I have observed the creative process benefit individuals dealing with trauma, depression, anxiety, managing anger and developing social skills. The benefits of art therapy are broad and can certainly extend to more than just my personal experiences!

Art therapy is a process that can help guide people through a creative therapeutic process and the art therapist can then come alongside the client and process any challenging emotions that may arise. The creative arts can be an instrument in facilitating the exploration of one’s self by allowing space for a person to communicate, especially in instances when words are not available or hard to find. The process of creating art can help a person develop and manage emotions and behaviors, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and self-awareness. All art is treated as confidential and part of the therapeutic process and it is an individual’s choice whether they want to share their art outside of the therapeutic setting.

Melissa Stoker, MS, LPC-Intern

Supervisor: Sascha Webb, MAMFC, LPC-S, NCC