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Art Therapy - what is it and how can it help?

Updated on May 7, 2012

The Creative Process

Collage created by art therapy students at BCSAT 2012 facilitated by Liza Miles
Collage created by art therapy students at BCSAT 2012 facilitated by Liza Miles | Source

Using the Creative Arts in Therapy

I first encountered the use of art therapy at a prison on the Isle of Wight in the UK. I was researching the prison as part of my job in television prduction for TVS. Honestly I was pretty sceptical about how painting could help criminals become better citizens. However, as I spoke to several of the men,I learned that engaging with the art therapist had helped them look at who they were and, in some cases, was a significant factor in reforming their behaviour in jail, as well as their outlook and opportunities for the future.

Two years later I enrolled in a post graduate programme at The Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education in the UK ( and trained as an Integrative Arts Therapist. I now use art therapy in a variety of different settings with individuals, families and groups. I have worked with youth and children, executives, rape victims, sex trade workers, prisoners, seniors, women with addiction and mental health disorders and the religious. In each and every case participants have benefitted psychologically and oftenttimes the work has been remembered as a significant experience years afterwards.

Art offers an insight into the internal self and, unlike words, engages the participant in a right brained process. Sometimes what emerges is "The unthought known" (Picasso).

Exploring the image with a therapist helps the client to understand what and why he or she has been experiencing, the thoughts and feelings that has led them to seek help.

Over time the art changes, healing and acceptance emerges. Sometimes, the art becomes beautiful, like a flower unfolding, pushing up through hard ground, an unexpected bloom in what was formerly a barren landscape. Other times the images are raw and harsh in their depiction of events. The factuality informs and confirms what happened , that the feelings are authentic and allows empathy and self love to replace the inner critic and self abuse.

Finished examples of five different art therapy processes

Accessing Art Therapy and Training

Most art therapy training programmes are offered at a post graduate level. Training can be taken full time or in modules. Pre-requisites will include studies in counselling, abnormal psychology, training and or experience in the creative arts and personal counselling or psychotherapy. In Victoria the BC School of Art Therapy ( ) offers a post graduate diploma. Other Universities such as Concordia and IATE offer Masters Programmes.

If you are seeking services of an art therapist ensure that the therapist has adequate certification and is a member of a professional association such ar CATA (Canada), ATA (US) CPA (UK).

I also offer on-line, facilitated workshops and courses through Addiction Recovery Coach of Canada Society. These workshops are not just for and about addiction and recovery. ( . The Gift Project is an eight week program that can be taken individually or facilitated within a group setting by a community service agency. This course costs $70.00 and is available as an e-book or in spiral bound printed format through


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      3 years ago

      Thank you for each of your hard work on this web site. Gloria delights in woinkrg on investigation and it is easy to understand why. Almost all learn all concerning the compelling means you make precious secrets on this web blog and as well as increase contribution from website visitors about this concern then our own girl is now discovering so much. Take pleasure in the rest of the new year. You are carrying out a tremendous job.

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Victoria BC

      You are welcome Vickiw and thanks for stopping by here. If you are ever interested in engaging in art therapy for personal development I do offer it online. Glad to meet you.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you for affirming my remarks re traffic on Hubs! I am so interested in art therapy. I would love to have training in it. My background may lend itself to this. Thank you for your Hub, it is great.

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Victoria BC

      traslochimilano thanks for reading.

    • traslochimilano profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Beautiful Hub, I like it.

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thank you Sandra.

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 

      6 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      I'm a great believer in therapy of all kinds and art therapy is one of the best. The unconscious responds readily to images. We don't always have to verbalize our issues. Thanks for your hub. Sandra Busby


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