What Is Art Therapy?

“Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication. Within this context, art is not used as diagnostic tool but as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing” - British Association of Art Therapists (www.baat.org).

Art is more than just a medium for creativity. When art is used in a therapeutic environment, it can be a powerful tool, capable of inducing healing, sparking confidence and creating new thoughts, feelings and behaviours.  Children in particular often find it easier to express themselves through art than through words. With art, there are no language barriers, the feeling of vulnerability that comes with verbalising your feelings is removed and there is no need to fear doing or saying something ‘wrong’. With young children, or children from different languages and cultures, there is the added element that they may simply be unable to articulate how they feel with words. By creating their own art, selecting their own colours and materials and completing a final piece of work, their art can do the talking for them.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Art production stimulates creativity and coping, meaning-making and reflectivity, while engagement in group-work fosters social cohesion, integration, dialogue, respect and cooperation. For the child art and art therapy has been shown to improve self-esteem, empathy, mindfulness, agency and resilience. The benefits of art therapy stretch far beyond this though:

  • Anyone can ‘do’ art, regardless of their level of skill
  • It gives the child the opportunity to express themselves
  • Art can reveal emotions that were unconscious, which allows the possibility to explore these feelings and help them lead to understanding
  • Art therapy provides a safe setting with no judgement, which makes it easier to process worries and concerns
  • Finished artwork is often ambiguous. This is a good thing! It encourages the artist to consider what their creation means to them, without there being a right or wrong answer
  • The act of creation itself can be enjoyable and fun!

Outcomes

Flourish Foundation works with children and young people with a variety of issues. Poverty is common, but so too is fear, abuse or neglect. Our role is not to analyse or diagnose the meaning behind their artwork, but simply to provide an outlet for channelling negative, complex, confusing and fearful emotions. Our aim to provide every child to have a chance to be heard. Through art and art therapy we aim to help these children realise that they matter.It’s not about learning to be an artist, or even about creating something that others would consider to be art at all. It’s about creating something that is important to them, gaining confidence and replacing negative feelings with positive ones.