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5 Myths About Art Therapy


“Art therapy? You mean finger painting? I’m pretty sure that’s not going to help anyone”image01

When you began researching forms of therapy, was your reaction to art therapy something like that one? If so, you aren’t alone. Many people hear the words “art therapy” and immediately think that that creating “art” can’t help them through their issues.

They think it’s too touchy-feely, or not truly therapeutic. They assume that the therapist is just a glorified art teacher, there for nothing more than handing out paints and crayons.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, art therapy is a recognized form of therapeutic treatment for a wide array of conditions, ranging from addiction to mental illness such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Texas drug rehab center that does not offer some form of art therapy, and the vast majority of patients who have included this type of treatment in their recovery plan admit that it was helpful in getting them healthy.

They report that art therapy not only provides an outlet for dealing with the emotions and stresses that contribute to their condition, but also helps them find healthy means of self-expression and, in some cases, a healthy and productive activity to engage in post-rehab to help maintain their sobriety.

Still, despite all of the proven benefits, many people still have misconceptions about art therapy and what it really entails. When they understand the reality of the modality, though, they quickly see that it’s an effective and beneficial treatment.

image00Myth #1: You Have to Be an Artist to Benefit From Art Therapy

This is one of the most common reasons for resisting art therapy. Most people believe that they have little to no artistic ability, and that engaging in artistic pursuits is only going to lead to embarrassment and ridicule, if not frustration. However, the point of art therapy is not the finished product, and it doesn’t matter if what you create is “good.” Art therapy is about the process, and tapping into your emotions and experiences to express concepts that you may have a hard time articulating. It doesn’t matter if you throw your creation away five minutes after you finish it. The point is that you created something.

Myth #2: Art Therapy Is Just Painting

Yes, your therapist might ask you to paint a picture. You might also doodle, use crayons, experiment with clay, write poetry, dance, make or listen to music or any other number of activities. Art therapy isn’t just about “art” in the most traditional sense. Anything that allows you to be creative and express yourself might be part of the therapeutic process.

Myth #3: Art Therapy Is Just About Creating

Some people are hesitant about art therapy because they believe it’s simply the process of creating something, and then you’re left on your own for interpretation. That’s not the case. The process of creation is a significant part of a therapeutic session, but so is interpretation and discussion. A licensed art therapist will discuss your work with you, both in terms of the creative process and the actual piece, helping you to examine your emotions and motivations, and discover insights and meanings that you may have unknowingly revealed through your work. Depending on the individual therapist, you may have conversations throughout the process, or only after you’ve created something based on a specific prompt. Either way, expect to answer questions and discuss your work to gain insight and understanding that will help you heal.

image02Myth #4: Art Therapy Is Only for People Who Cannot Communicate

It’s true that art therapy is commonly used with young children or disabled adults who may have difficulty communicating in a traditional therapy environment, but people of all ages can benefit from art therapy. Even educated adults may have trouble articulating their feelings and thoughts, and art can be an effective outlet for them.

Myth #5: Art Therapists Aren’t “Real Therapists”

Art therapy is a recognized specialty within the realm of psychotherapy, and as such, therapists are required to complete the same education and training as a more traditional practitioner, including earning a master’s degree and completing at least 900 hours of supervised clinical training. In fact, a licensed art therapist can actually serve as a primary therapist; he or she simply chose to focus on the creative process and art making as a form of therapeutic treatment. In short, art therapists are, in fact, “real” therapists.

Art therapy can be an important part of the recovery process. Before you dismiss the idea, look into the program available to you and explore how they may be helpful. When combined with other treatments, creating art may just put you on the road to recovery.

About Ryan Scott