Art therapy originated in the fields of art and psychotherapy and may vary in definition. Art therapy may focus on the creative methods of art therapy for children-making process itself, as therapy, or on the analysis of 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. In a study involving women facing cancer-related difficulties such as fear, pain, altered social relationships, etc. First, it helped them focus on positive life experiences, relieving their ongoing preoccupation with cancer. Second, it enhanced their self-worth and identity by providing them with opportunities to demonstrate continuity, challenge, and achievement. Third, it enabled them to maintain a social identity that resisted being defined by cancer.
Another study showed those who participated in these types of activities were discharged earlier than those who did not participate. Studies have also shown how the emotional distress of cancer patients has been reduced when utilizing the creative process. They found that art therapy can improve the process of psychological readjustment to the change, loss, and uncertainty associated with surviving cancer. Art therapy has been used in a variety of traumatic experiences, including disaster relief and crisis intervention. Art therapists have worked with children, adolescents and adults after natural and manmade disasters, encouraging them to make art in response to their experiences. While art therapy helps with behavioral issues it does not appear to affect worsening mental abilities. Tentative evidence supports benefits with respect to quality of life.
Art therapy has not been studied much in autism as of 2011. A 2005 systematic review of art therapy as an add on treatment for schizophrenia found unclear effects. The purpose of art therapy is essentially one of healing. Art therapy can be successfully applied to clients with physical, mental or emotional problems, diseases and disorders.
Any type of visual art and art medium can be employed within the therapeutic process, including painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, and digital art. One proposed learning mechanism is through the increased excitation, and as a consequence, strengthening of neuronal connections. In most art therapy sessions, the focus is on your inner experience—your feelings, perceptions, and imagination. Art therapy can take place in a variety of different settings. Art therapists may vary the goals of art therapy and the way they provide art therapy, depending upon the institution’s or client’s needs. After an assessment of the client’s strengths and needs, art therapy may be offered in either an individual or group format, according to which is better suited to the person. Horovitz wrote, “My responsibilities vary from job to job.