Is art therapy really therapy?

For sure! You can take mental health issues to an art therapist like you could to any mental health professional. This is one of the biggest differences between seeing an art therapist and having a relaxing session with an art teacher.
With an art therapist you can experience the joy and pleasure of art making PLUS you get a sound psychotherapeutic approach that is designed to foster self acceptance, self expression and healing, in a space that is confidential, and held by a trained professional. The art therapist holds space, models a good working relationship with creativity, and is sensitive to many different dynamics in the room.

To the casual observer an art therapy group session might look like a ‘craft session’ but to the trained eye there is so much more taking place: the subtleties of working with people’s stories, interpersonal dynamics and relationship building are happening quietly in the background. Training in psychotherapy and art, and practice are the ‘X factor’ that helps an art therapist hold the space and create an opportunity for a reflective and transformational moment that is far more than the materials used or the ‘activity’ undertaken.

How does art therapy work? American art therapist Julie Houck reflects on her work:
“I have learned that Art Therapy not only helps to make sense of one’s experiences, but offers catharsis by bringing long held unconscious material to the conscious level…I have been very fortunate that others have entrusted me not only with their stories, but also with their personal journey towards healing. I understand the fear and courage it takes to trust in the process, and the overwhelming feelings that follow by bringing vulnerability to surface.”

Art therapist Alyssa Rose Crenshaw works at Oregon’s largest mental and behavioral health provider for children and families and says: “I take pride in offering a variety of art based approaches to meet clients where they are at and allow them to guide the direction of treatment. Sewing and fabric based arts have a particularly healing quality and offer clients the opportunity to feel a sense of control and mastery which they may have rarely experienced before,”.