Art therapy is based on the idea that the creative process of making art facilitates recovery and that it is a form of nonverbal communication of internal thoughts and feelings. It supports the belief that everyone has the capacity to express themselves using the creative process and that the aesthetic merits of the art produced is of less importance than the therapeutic process involved in making that art. Art therapy is a hybrid discipline based in both art and psychology. Art making is an innate human tendency and it has been argued that, like speech and tool-making, it can be used to define our species (1). The artist Adrian Hill is acknowledged to have been the first person to use the term to describe the therapeutic application of image making (2). For Hill, the value of art therapy was in completely engrossing the mind in the creative process, and allowing that creative energy to be released in the inhibited patient. A major difference between art therapy and other forms of communication is that other forms of communication use words and language as the primary means of communication whereas art therapy uses non-verbal forms of expression and communication such as painting, drawing, and photography. In most sessions, the focus is on one’s inner experiences, feelings, perceptions, and imagination. While art therapy can help one improve art skills and techniques, the focus is on exploring and expressing images that develop from within the person rather than on trying to draw objects that the person sees in the outside world.
1. Malchiodi, C. A. (2012). Handbook of art therapy. 2nd ed. New York: Guilford Press.
2. Hill, A. (1945) Art versus illness, a story of art therapy,. London: G. Allen and Unwin.