Art Therapy

A therapeutic practice that combines creative expression with psychological theory.


Art therapy is a mental health profession that utilizes art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. It integrates psychotherapeutic techniques with the creative process to improve mental health and well-being.

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Art therapy has its roots in the early 20th century, with the work of pioneers like Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer. Naumburg, considered the founder of art therapy in the United States, believed that art expression could release the unconscious and promote psychological healing. Kramer, who worked with children, emphasized the therapeutic potential of the creative process itself. The field grew in the 1940s and 1950s, particularly in the treatment of mental illness and trauma. In the 1960s and 1970s, art therapy became a distinct profession with the establishment of professional associations and graduate training programs.


  1. Emotional Release Art therapy provides a safe outlet for expressing and processing difficult emotions.
  2. Stress Reduction Engaging in creative activities can be relaxing and help reduce stress and anxiety.
  3. Improved Self-Awareness Creating art can lead to greater self-understanding and personal insight.
  4. Enhanced Communication Art can serve as a non-verbal means of communication, particularly beneficial for those who struggle to express themselves verbally.
  5. Coping Skill Development Art therapy can help individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills.
  6. Increased Self-Esteem Accomplishing creative tasks can boost self-confidence and promote a more positive self-image.

How It Works

Art therapy combines the creative process and psychotherapy, facilitating self-exploration and understanding. Clients use various art materials to create tangible representations of their inner world, thoughts, and feelings. The therapist guides the client to analyze the art, eliciting insights and promoting growth. The act of creating art itself can be therapeutic, reducing stress and improving well-being. Art therapy can be conducted individually or in groups, with the therapist tailoring the approach to the client's specific needs and goals.


When considering art therapy, it's essential to find a qualified, certified art therapist who has experience working with your specific concerns. Art therapy may involve discussing sensitive topics, so feeling comfortable with your therapist is crucial. Some individuals may feel hesitant about engaging in art-making, fearing judgment or lack of artistic skills. However, the focus is on the process and self-expression rather than artistic ability. Art therapy may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those who strongly resist visual art-making.

How Much It Costs

The cost of art therapy can vary depending on factors such as the therapist's experience, location, and whether sessions are individual or group-based. On average, individual art therapy sessions can range from $50 to $150 per hour, while group sessions may cost between $30 to $80 per session. Some insurance plans may cover art therapy when provided by a licensed mental health professional. Lower-cost options may be available through community centers, non-profit organizations, or art therapy training clinics.

Virtual & Online Options

Virtual art therapy sessions offer convenience and accessibility, eliminating the need for travel and allowing clients to receive support from the comfort of their own space. Online sessions can be particularly beneficial for those with mobility issues or living in areas with limited access to art therapists. However, in-person sessions provide a dedicated therapeutic space, immediate access to a wider variety of art materials, and the opportunity for the therapist to observe non-verbal cues and body language more easily. Ultimately, the choice between virtual and in-person art therapy depends on individual preferences and circumstances.


To practice art therapy, individuals typically need to hold a master's degree in art therapy from an accredited institution. In the United States, the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) grants the Registered Art Therapist (ATR) credential to qualified professionals who have completed approved education and post-graduate supervised experience. Board Certification (ATR-BC) is available for registered art therapists who pass a national examination. Some states may have additional licensing requirements for art therapists to practice independently, such as licensure as a mental health professional.

Complementary Practices

Art therapy can be complemented by other expressive therapy practices such as music therapy, dance/movement therapy, and drama therapy. Mindfulness meditation, journaling, and talk therapy are also practices that can work well in conjunction with art therapy to support mental health and emotional well-being.

Practitioner Types

Art therapy is typically provided by licensed art therapists who have completed graduate-level training in art therapy and mental health counseling. Some mental health professionals like psychologists, clinical social workers, and licensed professional counselors may also incorporate art therapy techniques into their practice if they have received specialized training.

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  • Q: What issues can art therapy help with?

    • A: Art therapy can be beneficial for a wide range of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, grief, stress, and low self-esteem. It can also help with personal growth, self-discovery, and improving coping skills and resilience.
  • Q: Do I need to be good at art to benefit from art therapy?

    • A: No artistic skill or experience is necessary to participate in and benefit from art therapy. The focus is on the process of creating and expressing yourself, not on the final product or its aesthetic value.
  • Q: What happens during an art therapy session?

    • A: In an art therapy session, the therapist may guide you through art-making activities using various materials like paint, clay, markers, or collage. They will then discuss your creations with you, helping you explore the emotions, thoughts, and experiences expressed in your art.
  • Q: How is art therapy different from regular art classes?

    • A: While art classes focus on teaching artistic techniques and skills, art therapy is a form of mental health treatment that uses the creative process to help people explore emotions, reduce stress, cope with challenges, and enhance self-awareness and personal growth.
  • Q: How long does art therapy treatment usually last?

    • A: The length of art therapy treatment varies depending on individual needs and goals. Some people may find a few sessions helpful, while others may continue art therapy for several months or longer as part of their ongoing support for mental health and well-being.


Art therapy is a powerful and versatile treatment approach that harnesses the creative process to support mental health, emotional well-being, and personal growth. By providing a non-verbal way to express and explore inner experiences, art therapy can be a transformative tool for people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether used on its own or in combination with other therapies, art therapy offers a unique path to greater self-understanding, resilience, and healing. With the guidance of a trained art therapist, individuals can tap into the power of creativity to navigate life's challenges and enhance their overall quality of life.