chapter  5
38 Pages

Art Therapy

ByLaura A. Cherry

In its broadest definition, art is the human act of expression through creativity. A work of art displays elements of form and beauty and indicates to the observer the understanding of those elements as they are perceived by the work’s creator. Through his or her work the artist communicates feelings and perceptions concerning a personal, physical, and psychological self, and is able to convey viewpoints about society and the world in which he or she lives. The artist may choose to communicate in a manner in which the message is obvious or occult, symbolic or realistic, and the observer of the work is free to react to that message as it fits in with his or her own frame of reference. Art in all of its many forms is the method of communication that transcends all languages, embraces all cultures, and on occasion allows those who have no voice to express themselves. It is the component of communication inherent in all art forms that has led to the emergence of several therapies (dance, music, psychodrama) that are based on the arts. The focus of this chapter on art therapy is on the process of aiding clients in the therapeutic creation of images based on clients’ thoughts, feelings, experiences, wishes, and fears. Art therapists work with a variety of populations both as part of teams or as private practitioners. They work in art studios, clinics, correctional facilities, drug treatment facilities, halfway houses, hospitals (both medical and psychiatric), outpatient facilities, residential treatment facilities, schools, senior care facilities, shelters, universities, and colleges. This chapter will include an overview of the field and history of art therapy, basic

art therapy approaches, a highlight of research that documents the effectiveness of art therapy, and guidelines for practicing art therapy. The benefits of art therapy extend to both children and adults; a case study involving a six-year-old boy is presented in this chapter.