Thursday, January 3, 2008

What is Art Therapy and Why is it important to work with an Art Therapist?

What I know about art:
art is fun
art can be messy
art surprises
art tells a story
art can keep a secret
art is curious
art is poignant
art saves lives
What is Art Therapy and why is it important to work with an Art Therapist?
Art therapy is making art with a person who is educated about how art and your psyche relate. Working with a real Art Therapist (there is a master’s degree and nationally recognized credential for this field!) makes a difference. Because art making is so powerfully transformative huge shifts can come very quickly. It is important to know how to contain big feelings as they come up.
You might not know that some materials could be triggering to those of us that are carrying scary memories. [For example, while using clay can be a grounding experience, using red or brown clay could be retraumatizing for a person that has been abused around blood or feces. White or gray clay would make a better choice if you are using clay.]

Some of us need containment, yes, but some of us are so numbed out and our feelings are so shut down that we need help to become MORE expressive.
Q. If I don’t even know what I’m feeling, how can art help me?
A. Some materials can stimulate your creative juices and bring up your energy. With art therapy you might find dreams changing. You might become more aware of your surroundings. You might find your relationship with yourself and your past changing. As you gain more control in your art you may find you gain more control in your life, too.

A good Art Therapist will know what materials and interventions are appropriate for you as you work together.

My personal philosophy about art making is this: I believe that we are all made of the same creative stuff that created the universe. Therefore, when you stimulate creativity in one area of your life (making art, dancing, writing a poem, knitting, etc.) other parts of your creativity are also stimulated. When we do something creative we begin to heal in thousands of unseen ways because we are tapping into that original creative source from which we are made.

There is much more information about Art Therapy out there. Here are some links: (I regret their “Art Therapist locator” page is not working at the moment)

You may have guessed by now that I am an Art Therapist myself. I live and work in Ann Arbor, MI. Here is my URL: Contact me if you have questions!
-All the best,
Susan Boyes, ATR-BC, LMHC
Registered Art Therapist, Board Certified
Licensed Mental Health Counselor