Art Therapy: combining professional psychotherapy with the creative process.

Andrea's painting of a leaf

The Most-Often Asked Questions about Art Therapy

What is art therapy?

Art therapy involves the process of creating artwork for self-expression. Art-making is a non-verbal activity; it naturally facilitates the communication of emotions and ideas that are difficult to put into words.

What happens during an art therapy session?

Each art therapy session begins with a five-to-ten minute check-in, during which you will have the opportunity to discuss salient issues that have come up during the week. This is generally followed by a period of art-making, which can last from 20 to 50 minutes. Basic art supplies (markers, pastels, paints, clay, and collage materials) are provided, and you are free to use any or all of them to create a piece of artwork. Sometimes I will offer a guided theme or topic for the artwork, called a “directive”. At other times, you will create artwork freely without a directive.

The art-making is usually followed by an art review, which is a verbal discussion about the art-piece. During the art review, you may choose to make emotional connections to the artwork, and describe any emotions or thoughts that arose during its creation. As your therapist, I will guide the art review by making relevant observations and asking questions about the artwork. Throughout this exercise, your thoughts and feelings may be clarified and brought to light, allowing healing, insight, and a sense of well-being to be experienced.

The artwork becomes a concrete representation of your emotions and ideas. This externalization of an internal process allows you to take a step back, and look at the issues from a different perspective, in a safe environment.

Each session lasts roughly one hour.

Does the art therapist interpret my artwork?

No. The artwork is a reflection of your innermost thoughts and feelings, and therefore cannot be interpreted by anyone else. My role is to help you to determine what the images mean to you, by making observations and asking questions about the artwork.

What are some of the benefits of art therapy?

Art therapy facilitates: the processing of strong emotions, self-awareness and personal insight, anger management and conflict resolution, stress relief, positive mood, higher self-esteem, the development of coping skills, improved problem solving skills, and a sense of joy and vitality.

Who can benefit from art therapy?

Art therapy is beneficial for children, adolescents, adults and the elderly. It is commonly used with people who experience mental health disorders (e.g., ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder), physical illnesses, physical disabilities, behavioural issues (e.g., anger-related, ODD), eating disorders, trauma, and substance abuse/addiction problems.

Do I need to be artistic or have art experience?

No experience is necessary in order to benefit from art therapy. The quality of the artwork is not important; it is not made for others to see. The symbolic content and personal expression are the focus of art therapy.

What are the qualifications of the therapist?

Art therapists have advanced, graduate level training in psychological theory and psychotherapeutic technique. We have advanced education in theories of human psychosocial development. Art therapists are also required to complete hundreds of hours of supervised client-work in varied clinical settings, before graduating as professional therapists. We are not all trained as artists, but we do have an extensive knowledge of various art materials, and how they can be applied to evoke emotional information.

Can I claim art therapy services on my health insurance?

Art therapy services are not covered by OHIP, but they may be covered by your extended health care plan. Receipts will be provided after each session.

Can I try it to see if I am comfortable with it?

During the initial free consultation (half an hour in length), you will have the opportunity to try out a brief art therapy activity.

How many sessions will I need?

The number of sessions will vary according to your needs and goals for therapy. You and I can decide on a mutually agreeable number of sessions.

What are the fees for each session?

The fees may vary depending on the financial capability of the client. This will be discussed during the initial consultation.