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Art Therapy Techniques and Why They Are Helpful

Interested in art therapy and want to know about art therapy techniques you can apply in your approach? Click here to check out our mini guide!

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Art Therapy Techniques
Art Therapy Techniques

Welcome! If you stumbled upon our guide, you must be looking for Art Therapy Techniques because you’re either curious about Art Therapy Techniques or have received your certification to include Art Therapy in your practice. Well, whether you’re one or the other, we’re happy to let you know that your search for information on Art Techniques is over.  

This guide is all about Art Techniques, its benefits, and more. To give you an idea of what to expect as you read, here’s an overview of the sections in our guide:

  • What is Art Therapy?
  • Why are Art Therapy techniques helpful?
  • Art Therapy Techniques and Exercises
  • Art Therapy Worksheets
  • When is it best to use Art Therapy Techniques?

Aside from those, we’ll also provide you with software you may find helpful in your Art Therapy practice and answers to FAQs on Art Therapy Techniques. 

Think you’ll pick up a thing or two from our guide? Then, allow us to direct you to the next section to get yourself situated.

What is Art Therapy?

Before proceeding to our curated list of Art Therapy Techniques, here’s a quick 101 to refresh you on what Art Therapy is. 

Art Therapy is a type of therapy that combines psychotherapy and the creative process. Therapists who include art therapy in their practice believe that creative expression can improve one’s mental well-being, speed up healing, and potentially treat multiple psychological disorders a client may have. In addition, art therapy encourages self-expression, which helps clients learn more about themselves, discover alternative coping mechanisms in times of stress or challenges, boost their self-esteem, and improve their social skills if applied during group therapy. 

Moving on to the next part: What exactly happens during an art therapy session? 

  • First, the therapist explains the session's end goal to the client and assures them that they need not be artistic and that whatever they create won’t be judged by the therapist or others. 
  • Afterward, the client will be asked to try out a variety of mediums until they find one or several they are comfortable with. It’s also possible that the client will try out a set type of medium during the session. 
  • When the medium has been assigned or chosen, the therapist will guide the client by asking questions and giving them the time and space to create. 
  • After the drawing or creating part of the session, the therapist will ask the client to explain their art and how it connects to what they’re feeling or experiencing. During this time, the therapist may converse with the client and ask follow-up questions that’ll encourage the client to share and elaborate on the source of their creation. 
  • By the end of the session, should the therapist feel that the client needs additional follow-up sessions, they may plan and schedule future ones. 

Do note that for some practitioners and therapists, Art Therapy goes beyond visual arts and may include drama, dancing, music, and writing. 

However, for the sake of specificity, this guide will focus more on the visual arts type of art therapy.

Why are Art Therapy Techniques helpful?

There are multiple benefits to incorporating Art Therapy Techniques in one’s practice and trying out Art Therapy as a form of treatment. 

For therapists, because Art Therapy Techniques give clients the freedom to express themselves that aren’t limited to words, they can know more about the client, albeit in a different way. This is especially helpful for therapists who are caring for clients who aren’t eloquent. The client won’t feel the pressure or worry of being completely misunderstood by the therapist, so they’re more confident in sharing. To add, through a client’s art, therapists can see recurring themes that may reveal any emotions or thoughts that the client suppresses or feels often but doesn’t act upon. 

On the other hand, Art Therapy techniques can help clients express themselves, improve their mental health, and reduce their stress. Furthermore, art therapy is open to anyone and everyone regardless of age, background, and art experience or talent. They don’t need to pass a test or meet certain criteria to join or participate in sessions. In group art therapy sessions, in particular, art therapy can boost one’s self-esteem and hone their social skills. 

As a final point, art therapy is one which anyone can do anywhere as long as there’s a qualified therapist conducting the session, art mediums anyone can use, and a safe environment that won’t trigger or distract the client. This makes it a relatively accessible therapy that benefits a larger group. 

12 Art Therapy Techniques and Exercises

Now that you know the benefits you and your client will gain from art therapy, it’s time to dive into the meat of the guide: a list of Art Therapy Techniques and exercises. To help you out, aside from listing them down, we’ve also provided a brief explanation of the technique. However, it’s important to note that with every technique, therapists are encouraged to provide prompts to help with possible art blocks. 

  1. Collage - Clients are asked to gather materials such as photos, printed images, cutouts of book pages, or even flyers; cut them into however the client wants, and paste them together. 
  2. Coloring - Clients are provided with coloring pages or books and various mediums, such as colored pencils, crayons, and markers, to color in or outside the lines. 
  3. Doodling and Scribbling - Clients are given an assortment of art materials, mostly pens and markers, and are asked to simply draw. Most of the time, clients may produce small and simple illustrations or artworks with repetitive patterns. 
  4. Drawing - Like doodling and scribbling, clients are given multiple mediums to create their masterpieces. However, the art they create is expected to be more elaborate than doodles. 
  5. Painting - This technique is similar to drawing, but the main materials are paper, paint, and a brush. In the case of finger painting, instead of a brush, a client will use their fingers. 
  6. Photography or Phototherapy - The clients may be asked to take photographs using a camera or phone. In addition, a client may also be asked to bring photos they’ve taken over the years to look at them with the therapist, conceptualize for any photo-taking shoots, and in certain cases, remember and talk about specific pictures the client may have lost or forgotten to bring. 
  7. Videography or Videotherapy - This technique is similar to photography/phototherapy, but the client will be working with videos or films instead of pictures.
  8. Sculpting - A technique that doesn’t involve drawing on a flat piece of paper or having anything printed, a client who is asked to sculpt will utilize clay or even paper mache to create sculptures. 
  9. Textile Work - This technique has different names depending on what the therapist may ask the client to do. They may be asked to sew, weave, or knit to create. However, one uniting factor is that clients who work with textiles incorporate fabric or a variation in their work. 
  10. Mask making - A technique most similar to sculpting, mask making asks the client to sculpt a mask out of tissue paper, clay, or any material that can hold the shape of a mask. Afterward, the therapist may take it up a notch by having them paint their mask or design it with other crafting materials like fabric, sequins, etc. 
  11. Guided imagery - Unlike the other techniques where clients are tasked to create tangible pieces, during guided imagery, they are asked to visualize pictures in their head. This is usually paired with a request to relax one’s body and, depending on the therapist, reflect on what they visualize or repeat affirmations to themselves. 
  12. Digital Art - Nowadays, therapists must offer more popular alternatives to traditional art creation methods. Hence the existence of traditional art where clients can draw, paint, collage, etc., using available gadgets and digital art software.

5 Art Therapy Worksheets

Now that you have a comprehensive list of Art Therapy techniques, in case you’re drawing a blank on activities using a certain medium, we’ll get the ball rolling for you. Below are art therapy worksheets you may find useful to give to your clients during your art therapy sessions. Note that these worksheets will ask your client to draw or color with their chosen medium. 

  1. Emotion Wheel

This worksheet aims to help clients identify and share their feelings comfortably. Though commonly given to children and teenagers, an emotion wheel can benefit anyone, regardless of age. In this worksheet, the client will choose eight emotions and illustrate what each feeling means to them. 

  1. Coat of Arms

This worksheet aims to improve a client’s self-awareness as an individual and possibly as someone contributing to a group. In this worksheet, a client will see a shield with four empty quadrants. They will be asked to fill them with illustrations of what they believe represents themselves the best. At the bottom, they are asked to come up with a name that summarizes what they’ve drawn. 

  1. How I Feel Today

This worksheet aims to aid the client in identifying and expressing their emotions visually. Compared to the other worksheets where they are asked to draw, in this worksheet, they are simply asked to assign a color to an emotion and color in the human outline provided where they are feeling a certain emotion.

  1. Draw Your Heart

Designed primarily for young clients, this worksheet aims to teach them how to express themselves by drawing what they love, the things that occupy their hearts. This worksheet can be used as a great icebreaker or during a getting-to-know-you session with young clients. 

  1. Improve Mood and Expressing Feelings

A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) resource, this set of worksheets aims to improve a client’s moods and help them express their feelings by drawing with the help of a prompt. They’ll be asked to visualize and illustrate what a bad day looks like and what a good day, a happy ending, or any other variation it looks like. By the end of the worksheets, they’re expected to train at least their coping and positive thinking skills. 

When is it best to use Art Therapy Techniques?

It goes without saying that a therapist can only use art therapy techniques and conduct art therapy sessions if they’re qualified. Once they receive a certification or license, some of the best times to use Art Therapy techniques are when:

  • The client is experiencing severe stress
  • The client is said to be exhibiting “difficult” behavior or struggles with social interaction
  • The client just went through a traumatic event
  • The client is diagnosed with a learning disability or mental illness
  • The client is recovering from a brain injury

To be more specific, according to research, art therapy can aid therapists in formulating a treatment plan for the following:

  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Anger-related issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance Abuse
  • Relationship Problems

Commonly asked questions

Can Art Therapy Techniques be combined with other types of therapy techniques?

It definitely can! For it to be truly effective, it’s recommended that one combine art therapy techniques with other psychotherapy techniques.

Are Art Therapy Techniques suitable for kids?

Yes, they suit kids because many children may find it easier to express their emotions visually, especially given their limited vocabulary.

What are the risks and/or limitations of Art Therapy Techniques?

Some limitations of art therapy techniques are:

  • It won’t be effective if adults don’t believe in the benefits or are hesitant to try it out.
  • It only treats particular mental illnesses.
  • Not all therapists can utilize the techniques. 
  • Insurance may not cover the sessions
  • It’s not recommended for patients experiencing extreme stress or anxiety. Having them sit with their emotions while creating may trigger an attack or negatively affect their mental health during and after a session.

How can Carepatron help with Art Therapy-related work?

Over a thousand art therapists have said that Carepaton aids them with their practice by streamlining processes and automating tasks. That’s because, with Carepatron, they can do the following: 

  • Schedule appointments
  • Remind clients via SMS or email of their appointments
  • Conduct sessions via video call with fully integrated telehealth video calling
  • Download, customize, and fill out relevant Art Therapy resources and forms
  • Create and store health records and therapy notes in our secure EHR system
  • Accept prepayments and contactless payments
  • . . . and more!

Aside from the abundance of features, art therapists can access all these free tools on a desktop or mobile app. All they need to do is sign up, explore the intuitive dashboard, and take advantage of all the available tools. 

Art Therapy Software

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