Art as Therapy vs. Art as Psychotherapy

I would like to explain the difference between these two schools of thought.

Art as therapy is simply making art. Taking an art class, sketching, drawings, doodling, coloring in a coloring book, going to a paint and wine night. In therapy this is using art as a coping skill. I often encourage my clients to obtain 2 sketchbooks. The first one is for the use of art as therapy. Art is a great coping skill for people to utilize. It is termed art as therapy simply because the process of creating art can be therapeutic. For any clinicians who are not specifically trained in art therapy, I would encourage you to ask your clients to utilize this form of treatment. Like journaling, clients can use art as another coping skill. Here is an example image of art as therapy. This was a flower painting I did for a friend. This had no emotional meaning to me personally, but I enjoyed painting this piece.

Art as psychotherapy is art that is processed specifically by an art therapist in session. This is art surrounding a specific topic discussed in session that a client is asked to further process through art making. In the sketchbook I ask my clients to obtain, they are usually creating reflective art from our session in order to further process the emotions or ideas discussed in therapy. This type of art is very personal, reflective, and emotionally based. These are images that come from experiences one may have or specific emotions that are felt in their lives. These images art not based around technique or aesthetic but around emotion. If you are utilizing art as a clinician, I believe it is very important to understand the difference between these two ideas. A trained art therapist will be able to spend a session discussing and processing the art as psychotherapy with the client. The art therapist is trained to ask questions in order for the client to express in depth the feelings, emotions, and meaning behind these images without judgment. I encourage therapists to reach out to art therapists if they feel their client is creating this type of work, in order to ethically and clinically processes these images.
Here is an example of art as psychotherapy. This was an image I found while researching cancer online. It was this demonic face that I felt emotionally connected to due to personally knowing someone suffering from cancer. I felt this demonic face accurately represented my anger towards the disease.

If you are interested in learning more about these two schools of thought, here is an additional link to this topic.

Create, educate, inspire.
Katrina Kurtz, MA., LCPC, ATR

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