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Art Therapy: What the Hell is it?

So what is art therapy and how could painting a pretty picture possibly help anyone?

Some of us are just not that great at expressing ourself with words. I am definitely guilty of this sometimes! Art therapy allows you to express what you are feeling in a way that words just cannot explain. You can use a sentence to explain the feeling of anger or you might use jagged sharp dark angry lines or even just a colour that you associate with being angry.

Painting: "Anger" by Alsath

Painting: "Anger" By Alsath

The great thing about art therapy is that there is no need to link what you are drawing to the real world. You are expressing your inner world and that can look like absolutely anything!

Painting: Defaced Series by Pablo Gonzalez-Trejo

At the end of your art making session some therapists work with you to decipher the piece you have made guiding you through an analysis of your own work. This analysis paired with the creative and healing process of making your piece of art makes art therapy such a great method of self expression.


I talked to Provisional Psychologist Edward Lewin about his experience using this therapy to gain a bit more insight into the subject.

Q: How would you generally start an Art Therapy class

You could either do a colouring in for mindfulness kind of class or more of a paint how you feel class. You would ask questions like

Does your emotion have a shape? A colour? Is it jagged? Smooth? Big? Small?

You could get them to imagine an event or situation and mindfully pay attention to where it is in your body.Is it heavy in your chest, a jagged mess in the head?

Q: Do you talk to the artists much about their work after or during their painting session?

You could ask if they feel comfortable sharing but it's not necessary. It's so subjective, its more about catharsis.

Q: In your experience, what are some of the ways you have seen art therapy positively influence participants?

It helps people describe and express things that they can't put into words. So for autism, people might not be able to verbalise.

Or incredibly painful experiences might be too hard to talk about in words.One girl told me she didn't feel anything but drew this massive black block and a little girl crying in the middle.So great for young people too.


So there really is something to be said about sitting back and letting your hands do the talking.

You can do this by yourself too, give it a try!

Thanks for reading!

Mady Barnett


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