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Running head: HEAL WITH ART

2014 Camille Wildenburg

University of Florida 1/1/2014


Art Therapy



Table of Contents

Introduction……………………………………………..4 What is Art Therapy?…..………………………………5 History of Art Therapy…………………………………6 How and when is art therapy used?…………………...10 Why and how does art therapy work to heal?…………12



Healing Through Art Camille Wildenburg ARE 6049 F25 February 28, 2014



Many think Art therapy to be only a recent form of psychotherapy used to heal the mentally sick, but in all actuality art therapy has existed informally as an unofficial healing process for thousands of years (Cherry, 2014). It is a


profession and psychotherapy option in which those, who are

sick or disabled in some way, find comfort and are able to heal mental and emotional wounds through the facilitation of expression and creativity through art making developmental methods (, 2014). The multitudes of benefits from art therapy are numerous, which is why there is so much research and emphasis into the development of this area of profession today.


What is

“Art therapy is a mental health profession” (art therapy association, 2013) in which professionals (art therapists) assist patients and clients in making art through the use of

Art therapy

creativity, self-expression and tangible media to help an ill person to be restored and find some form of comfort through an artistic process (Cherry, 2014).This act of creating and expressing one’s self can be healing and that’s the whole idea

that makes up the foundation of art therapy (Walsh, 2008). Ultimately, art therapy becomes a tool with a means of “help(ing) people express hidden emotions; reduces stress, fear, and anxiety; and provides a sense of freedom” (Walsh, 2008, par. 3). Currently art therapy is a process that benefits many people: those who have a disability and even those who are physically able. Individuals who can gain great advantage from art therapy sessions are those who have suffered a traumatic experience (i.e. combatting in war, surviving a natural disaster, enduring abuse), anyone who has a severe health condition or disability (i.e. traumatic brain injury, dementia, autism, cancer, depression, addiction) (American art therapy association, 2013). Art therapy can be useful to people with these types of mental illnesses because it “provides an opportunity to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of art making” (American art therapy association, 2013, p.1). Art therapy, technically, involves almost all forms of art making, more specifically and commonly, types of art, like painting, drawing, and sculpting, are used. Therapy sessions that use art can be attended as individual sessions or done in group sessions. These days art therapy is practiced in hospitals, medical centers, schools, psychiatric centers, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, prisons, day care treatment programs, nursing homes, hospices, patients' homes, and art studios (Walsh, 2008).



The history of art as humanity knows it initiated with the drawings of animals inside of caves found in European countries almost 40,000 years ago. Art has consistently served the purpose of visually symbolizing and self-expressing


emotions and creativity for human beings (Marovt, 2012). Naturally, many people have unconsciously used the art making process, for a long time, as a tool to cultivate and deal

with emotions. One primary example is that of artist Pablo Picasso. He is famously known for his Blue Period in which he primarily painted art works in monochromatic compositions using only paints with tones of blue, which he began doing in the early twentieth century. His Blue Period has said to be heavily influenced by the suicide of one of his friends, Carlos Casagemas, in February of 1901 (, 2009). This period is a good example of art as therapy because Pablo chose to only paint with blue, using that primary color as a visual symbol for his mood to manifest his feelings of sadness. (Marovt, 2012).

Old Guitarist Pablo Picasso 1903


Another famous artist who would have used art as a form of therapy is Vincent Van Gogh. It is well known that Mr. Van Gogh suffered from various mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and clinical depression, having cut off his own ear for a reason that is still unknown in addition to trying to commit (an unsuccessful) suicide. Vincent is well known for having painted his famous landscape post impressionist painting, Starry Night, while looking out of the window of the Mental Hospital he was staying in France in June of 1889 (Wetterlund, 2006). This provides evidence that while he spent time healing at mental hospital, painting and creating art may have helped to further that process. (Marovt, 2012).

Starry Night Vincent Van Gogh 1889

It wasn’t until the 1940’s that a formalized distinction of art as therapy was organized. It was a man named Adrian Hill, in England, who started becoming aware of the processes of making art as therapeutic ways of helping people to deal with unresolved emotions, referring to it as art therapy. He realized this while in a hospital being treated for tuberculosis, an artist worked with Adrian to make art and this is when it became obvious to him that art could be a logical and successful facilitator of helping the sick heal (, 2014). Edward Adamson, an artist, was the next man to cultivate and expand on the ideas of Adrian Hill. Adamson and Hill worked together to promote the idea of art as therapy


by starting a program that offered assisted art making to long term mentally ill patients in British mental hospitals. Edward continued to establish programs of art therapy and even went on to open art studios where patients and clients could come and freely selfexpress themselves without feeling like they needed to be psychologically treated (, 2014). In the United States there were also two main figures in the development of art as therapy. Margaret Naumburg, a psychologist and Edith Kramer an artist who had her doctorate, two American women, referred to their art works as art therapy and believed in “the idea of using art to release the unconscious by encouraging free association” (When was art therapy started,, 2014). This idea of free association facilitated in the development of art programs across the United States and “by the middle of the 20th century, many hospitals and mental health facilities began including art therapy programs after observing how this form of therapy could promote emotional, developmental, and cognitive growth in children” (, 2014).Then the American Art Therapy Association was founded and established in 1969. The organization was formalized with an Art Therapy Credentials Board to set standards for art therapists and presently the association has grown to more than 4,500 members (Walsh, 2014). Currently, art therapy is a field that has expanded since the mid twentieth century. Art therapists can be found practicing the artistic healing process at schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, community centers, and even wellness centers (just to name a few).There are art therapist degrees being offered that provide intensive studies for preparations in the art therapy field, which has grown to encompass many locations all throughout the world. Presently art therapists must study to attain a minimum of a master’s degree in art therapy and have a background in studio arts to begin at an entry level in a career for art therapy. Unfortunately, in today’s society there are only a handful


of universities offering masters programs or doctorates programs in art therapy, making a career in therapeutic arts a challenging one to achieve. Even after the attainment of a degree, a license to practice is required (American art therapy association, 2013).



Art therapy is used in many ways and for many different people who are in need of psychotherapy. Art therapy is used for patients dealing with any mental health issues, as well as

and When

people in need of rehabilitation. It is practiced in wellness, educational, medical forensic, community and private practice settings. It can also be used with varied clients who want to use therapy sessions as a source for healing when it comes to

individual, couples, family, and group wellness(American art therapy association, 2013). In addition “art therapy is an effective treatment for people experiencing developmental, medical, educational, and social or psychological impairment” (American art therapy association, 2013, p.1). Individuals who benefit from art therapy include those who have survived trauma resulting from combat, abuse, and natural disaster; persons with adverse physical health conditions such as cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other health disability; and persons with autism, dementia, depression, and other disorders. Art therapy helps people resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress, and achieve personal insight. Art therapy also “provides an opportunity to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of art making” (American art therapy association, 2013, p.1). For those in need of art as therapy, patients will find that there is an array of media and art techniques available through which to heal. Art therapists most commonly use drawing and painting to help clients in the art making process, but there is also sculpture, collage and pottery available for those who wish to work outside the basic art techniques. Therapists will use art media such as acrylic paints, clay, magazines, glue, scissors, charcoal, pencils, markers, and crafts to facilitate the patient in creating art works. It is the use of these media through which the patient can tangibly touch and feel and use the media to create. This is where the connection to the self-expression develops


thus furthering the creative therapeutic experience (American art therapy association, 2013). In addition to the types of art and artistic tools being used, there are specific methods in art therapy that help the art therapist’s patient to excel. At times, in an art therapy session, the therapist will encourage the patient and artist to refer to the images in the art work and talk about the meanings and significances associated with the artistic images. This helps both parties to get a better insight of the artwork and situation of the patient/artist (Malchiodi, 2011). Another frequently used technique, active imagination, helps the patient/artist to use spontaneous thoughts in his or her mind as material to use in their art work to ultimately “help clients gain a deeper understanding and growth� (Malchiodi, 2011). Lastly, using a technique called the third-hand approach, therapists guide the artist patient in manifesting the art of the patient to help them make the best art work that they can (Malchiodi, 2011).



Art therapy has a multitude of benefits that have been proven through statistics and research (American art therapy association, 2013). Ideally and ultimately, art therapy, over

and How

time, becomes a means of “help(ing) people express hidden emotions; reduces stress, fear, and anxiety; and provides a sense of freedom” (Walsh, 2008, par. 3).The process “is used to help people manage physical and emotional problems by

using creative activities to express emotions…providing a way for people to come to terms …and express unspoken and often unconscious concerns about … illness and their lives” (Walsh, 2008, par. 1). The “ resulting artwork (helps)to explore (the client’s) feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem” (American art therapy association, 2013, p.1) . “Research supports the use of art therapy within a professional relationship for the therapeutic benefits gained through artistic self-expression and reflection for individuals who experience illness, trauma, and mental health problems and those seeking personal growth” (American art therapy association, 2013, p.1). Because artists are known for being more in touch with their emotions, art itself can be used as a powerful tool for people who are mentally dealing with an issue. The patient acquires the empowerment and he or she becomes the artist and makes the art. The art making procedure helps to “process emotions and feelings that you might not be otherwise able to express…(manifesting) the emotion you are having trouble with (or) bottling things up” (Marovt, 2012, par. 2). Research has shown that there are positive outcomes for patients who use art therapy as a tool for healing, proving art therapy is an effective form of restoration (Malchiodi, 2013). The following has been proven: “Several studies demonstrate that art


therapy enhances the psychosocial treatment of cancer, including decreased symptoms of distress, improved quality of life and perceptions of body image, reduction of pain perception, and general physical and psychological health” (Malchiodi, 2013, par. 4). In addition, “Art therapy strengthens positive feelings, alleviates distress, and helps individuals to clarify existential questions (as well as) engaging in drawing and painting is an effective method for dealing with pain and other disturbing symptoms of illness and treatment” (Malchiodi, 2013, par. 4).

16 Resources Cherry, K. (2014). What is art therapy. Psychology. retrieved on February 12, 2014 from Malchiodi, C. (2013, February 27) Yes, virginia, there is some art therapy research. Art Therapy. retrieved on February 20, 2014 from Malchiodi, C. (2011, August 17). 5 Quick facts about art therapy. Psych Central. retrieved on February 20, 2014 from Marovt, J. (2012, May 22). The benefits of art as therapy. Psykopaint Blog. retrieved on February 18, 2014 from Pablo Picassos blue period. (2009). Pablo Picasso. retieved on February 18, 2014 from 2009. The history of art therapy. (2014). Art Therapy Journal. retrieved on February 16, 2014 from Walsh, SM (2008, November 1). Art therapy. American Cancer Association. retrieved February 15, 2014 from e/mindbodyandspirit/art-therapy Wetterlund, K. (2006). Starry night. Moma Learning. retrieved on February 18, 2014 from What is art therapy? (2013) Pp. 1-2. Art Therapy. American Art Therapy Association. retrieved on February 15, 2014 from

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