Art therapy originated in the fields of art and psychotherapy and may vary in definition. Art therapy may focus on the creative art-making process itself, as therapy, or on the analysis art drawing for children expression gained through an exchange of patient and therapist interaction.
The psychoanalytic approach was one of the earliest forms of art psychotherapy. This approach employs the transference process between the therapist and the client who makes art. Analysis of transference is no longer always a component. Various definitions of the term “art therapy” exist.
The British Association of Art Therapists defines art therapy as “a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication. The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as: “an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship. As a mental health profession, art therapy is employed in many clinical and other settings with diverse populations. Art therapy can also be found in non-clinical settings, as well as in art studios and in creativity development workshops. Using their evaluative and psychotherapy skills, art therapists choose materials and interventions appropriate to their clients’ needs and design sessions to achieve therapeutic goals and objectives. Stephney’s book Art Therapy With Students At Risk: Fostering Resilience and Growth through Self-Expression, Stephney states that art therapy can be used to help at-risk children. People always search for some escape from illness and it has been found that art is one of the more common methods.
People can escape the emotional effects of illness through art making and many creative methods. Hospitals have started studying the influence of arts on patient care and found that participants in art programs have better vitals and fewer complications sleeping. Artistic influence doesn’t need to be participation in a program, but studies have found that a landscape picture in a hospital room had reduced need for narcotic pain killers and less time in recovery at the hospital. Art therapists have conducted studies to understand why some cancer patients turned to art making as a coping mechanism and a tool to creating a positive identity outside of being a cancer patient. Women in the study participated in different art programs ranging from pottery and card making to drawing and painting. The programs helped them regain an identity outside of having cancer, lessened emotional pain of their on-going fight with cancer, and also giving them hope for the future.