Arts therapies

Explains what arts therapies are, what they are for, what happens during therapy and how to find a therapist.

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What is visual art therapy?

Visual art therapy involves using different mediums such as paint, clay, chalk and photography to create something that expresses yourself.

Working with your therapist, you will decide what you want to make. You might listen to music or stories to inspire you.

[It] helps quiet my mind. Concentrating on the colours, lines and shapes takes me away from the noise in my head.

How might visual art therapy help me?

The art you make can help you and your therapist to:

  • understand your feelings
  • think about what may be causing these feelings
  • explore ways you can learn to cope with these feelings

Art therapy allows you to express those feelings that you can either not find words to explain or are simply too difficult to even attempt to. Then you can talk through the image with your therapist and communicate through it, taking the pressure off yourself. The connection with your therapist becomes even stronger.

The different materials you use in your art can be helpful in different ways. For example:

  • objects you find may remind you of experiences you have had and help you express and explore your feelings around them
  • clay can be useful if you find using colour difficult — for example, if you are experiencing a manic episode, colours may be too stimulating and may make your mania worse
  • clay could help you move on from difficult feelings and experiences, as the shape of clay is easily changed and transformed to show changes in your emotions or circumstances
  • taking photos can help you to think about how the things you choose to photograph might be connected with memories and emotions in your past

You may wish to keep what you create private or share your art with your loved ones. Having your experiences presented in a way that others might find easier to understand can help you to feel more accepted. Your art can also be a useful reminder of your progress and recovery.

The art I produced acted as a starting point when I couldn't find the words to begin to describe how I was feeling. I've kept all of the artwork I've made and I'm proud of the visual record I have of my recovery. It allows me to see the progress I've made and acts as a reminder of what I've achieved.


This information was published in 2016. We will revise it in 2019.


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