How does art therapy affect mental treatment?
Written by Chaewon Park | Published. 2022.01.03 11:37 | Count : 563

[Paints used for art therapy, Pxhere]

Art therapy is a form of therapy that utilizes creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help people artistically articulate their abstract thoughts and evaluate their psychological condition through the works of art they create.

With the help of a credentialed art therapist, clients can “decode” the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in their artwork, which could lead them to a better understanding of their feelings and behavior.

Clients will go on and be able to overcome deeper problems. Art therapy allows them to improve their well-being and solve various physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual problems. People find new ways to gain personal insight and develop new coping skills (Dubois-maahs, 2020).

The American Art Therapy Association characterizes art therapy as: “an approach to mental health that utilizes the process of creating art to improve mental, physical, and emotional wellness” (2020).

Art therapy is applicable to all age groups and effective for a wide range of mental disorders, including anxiety, emptiness, depression, and also trauma. This form of therapy also sometimes works in conjunction with other psychotherapy techniques.

The treatment is generally offered in hospitals, schools, veteran’s clinics, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, seniors’ communities, and forensics institutions, among others (Cherry, 2020). 

Art therapy can work in many different formats: groups, couples, families, individuals, and even entire communities. In art therapy, three factors need to be present: the artist or art-maker (client), the artwork, and the art therapist (American Art Therapy Association, 2020).

The art therapist is in charge of selecting the art materials and supporting the art-maker and leading them to work towards a therapeutic goal throughout the whole process of therapy. They need to analyze the artwork, decipher the hidden meaning, and help clients resolve their emotional issues and resentment. 

Art therapy is a wonderful and effective therapeutic method as it associates the process of healing with both physical experience and psychological experience. There are two different kinds of therapy methods: body-based, such as exercise, and mind-based, such as verbal therapy.

Each of them is effective alone; however, art therapy incorporates both. Surprisingly, 95 percent of humans’ actions are rooted in our unconscious mind (Cattanach, 1999).

As the human unconsciousness is activated more easily through nonverbal means, art therapy helps people who need help to express themselves by tapping into their true emotions underneath their conscious mind.

Some people still doubt the effectiveness of art therapy. However, there is a study on the “effectiveness of art therapy with adult clients” (Regev & Cohen-Yatziv, 2018). It reviewed 27 studies on this topic to assess the effectiveness of art therapy.

The study looked at art therapy conducted for seven different categories of people: cancer patients, people with medical conditions, people with mental health problems, trauma victims, prison inmates, the elderly, and clients who face ongoing daily challenges.

In the end, the study concluded that art therapy has substantial positive effects on the mental health of people in several of these categories. 

Art therapy affects mental treatment through the many different benefits it offers clients. Physical activities that involve the human senses during the art-making process helps clients stay in tune with the present moment with calming and relaxing feelings.

This also stabilizes their heartbeat and breathing and relaxes tense muscles. Interacting nonverbally through images and symbols helps clients access their memories. By activating both sides of the brain, such interaction helps stabilize clients’ emotional states and also reduces anxiety. 

Lastly, the metaphysical characteristics of art therapy helps clients connect with their spirits and higher life forms, enabling them to become more self-conscious and connect with what is intangible and what is greater than them.

In this way, art therapy motivates people to recognize the causes of their trauma, recover from it, build meaning from it, and live meaningful lives (Cherry, 2020).









Chaewon Park
Grade 11
Idyllwild Arts Academy


Chaewon Park  hsr@dherald.com

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