Art Therapy with Adults

Art Therapy is effective for people of all ages, yet general thinking is that it is ‘just for kids’. As a therapy for adults it can break through many barriers. The Art Therapy session provides a space for adults to play and experiment, to be creative, and work through a variety of issues. Adults are often so good at talking about their problems in a particular way that they can almost hide behind the words. Art Therapy allows the client to express difficult thoughts and feelings in a new way, thus often providing a way of getting ‘unstuck’, opening up a pathway to solutions for problems.

Art therapy is based upon the principle that the creative process involved in making art is healing and life-enhancing. The act of ‘making’ is inherently therapeutic. The presence of a therapist supplies the human factor for establishing a therapeutic relationship through an art form. Art therapy is a three-way process involving a transaction between the client, the therapist and the image.

Creativity is at the core of art therapy, but the primary goal of the art activity must be therapy. The emphasis is on the process of creating rather than on the end product. Art Therapy offers the opportunity for expression, reflection and communication.

The art therapist provides a safe, non-threatening, non-judgemental, and confidential space in which the person can explore their issues.

It has its roots in psychotherapy, but is not a ‘talking’ modality. The art process is seen as a form of symbolic speech. Art therapists ‘listen’ to the non-verbal conversations, the dialogue between the client and their art work, the process of making, as well as body language and any verbal commentary. They do not make judgements based on the art product. The therapist does not interpret the artwork, though they may ask the client to tell the story of the image, and thus try to unravel an interpretation for themselves. The product is seen as a reflection of the meaningful discoveries of the client. It also serves as a monitor of change because developments can be seen visually.

Art therapy is extremely versatile and effective for most people. It is an organic process of healing through engaging with art materials and the relationship with the therapist. The essence of Art Therapy lies in the therapeutic outcome of the creative activity. It provides people with a safe space to explore and express their thoughts and feelings.

Modern Art Therapy dates back to World War One when it was found that painting helped shell-shocked soldiers deal with their symptoms. My colleagues around the world work with adults with a variety of problems and in a variety of settings: private practice; in hospital settings with sick patients, terminal illness, dementia etc; in adult mental health dealing with depression, schizophrenia, addiction etc.

Sessions are weekly, for a duration of 1 hour.

Art Coaching

Art Coaching is a combination of Art Therapy with Time To Think coaching, a technique that offers the best of both practices.

The client is a ‘Thinker’ and usually arrives for a session with a problem to work through. On their own, the person’s thinking has become circular and they are stuck on a particular issue that they need help with. The therapist is a ‘Thinking Partner’, listening and asking questions in a structured way such that the person is encouraged to arrive at their own best solution. They do not provide advice.

Art is utilized as a thinking tool. The art making process allows the Thinker to delve into the complex layers of the issue and give it visual form. Sometimes the image is of the barrier to the problem, which allows the Thinker to ‘see’ it and puts a different light on the issue. Other times the Thinker is encouraged to create a free flow picture that allows the unconscious processes to arise.

Sessions are usually fortnightly, for a duration of 90 minutes.

See also – Time to Think