Through therapeutic art making with a trained art therapist, you are an active participant toward self-discovery and well-being. Art therapy is an opportunity to explore issues and concerns through the creative process that does not rely on talking to experience benefits.
You do not need to be an artist! You will have many materials to choose from, such as paint, pencil, clay, collage, recycled packaging, wood, and fabric. With the material of your choice, you will create something from which to reflect and gain insights as well as discover personal strengths. I may also suggest activities to facilitate reaching your therapeutic goals.
There’s lots of information online if you want to know more about the benefits of art therapy for a specific issue such as pain, depression, trauma, dementia, mental health disorders, acquired brain injury, loss, etc. Here’s a PsychCentral article that provides a general overview: https://psychcentral.com/lib/why-art-therapy/
Youth and Adults – Individual Sessions
My approach is person-centred, so the topics for each session come from your self-identified needs and therapeutic goals. During the first session, I will ask you what issue brought you to therapy. I will also do an intake about biological, psychological, and social experiences, concerns, and strengths. Each session is typically 45-50 minutes long. During that time you may choose materials to work with and how, or you may prefer for me to suggest an activity or process. Then you’ll spend time focussed on your chosen creative activity. When you’re finished, I’ll ask questions about your process and what you’ve made. You’re answers will increase your self-understanding and help you to identify strengths and resources for healing. We’ll finish each session by identifying how your insights can bring you closer to your therapeutic goals.
Children – Individual Sessions
Children often don’t have the words to describe their feelings and experiences but behaviours often indicate something is bothering them and raising concerns among the adults in their life. Art therapy helps children express and process complex emotions and experiences when they are able to freely use art materials to express themselves. My training as an art therapist helps me support children through this process because I have an understanding of how material use and creative expression may represent challenges and healing. I’m also trained to identify creative styles and use projective assessments that provide insights for assessing cognitive development and emotions.
Art therapy also helps children process trauma without having to bring to mind or describe traumatic experiences. Much of what is expressed by a child during art therapy is a metaphor through which children use creativity to symbolically, emotionally, and physically process difficult and/or disturbing experiences.
Through creativity and play children:
- Problem-solve and experience self-mastery and pleasure
- Learn to identify and constructively express emotions
- Try out roles from different perspectives to learn compassion for others and increase self-awareness
- Identify arousal and experience self-regulation
- Process trauma and develop resiliency
- Enhance cognitive abilities
* A child’s first session is an intake with only the referring adult
Group Art Therapy
Group therapy brings together people with shared concerns in an environment of support and trust grounded in common experiences. Sessions about a specific issue typically take place within a predetermined length of time, such as weekly sessions for six weeks. A group that has therapeutic goals better supported with ongoing, long-term sessions meets weekly or bi-weekly for as long as the participants experience benefits. Check out my list of previous clients for examples.
Benefits of art therapy groups: Development of strengths and insights when exploring thoughts and emotions among participants with shared concerns; reduced sense of isolation when peers validate shared experiences; experience of positive behaviours (self and others) such as empathy, helping others, and friendship.
Art Therapy in Schools Videos
- Introduction to Art Therapy for Students (4:14)
- Importance of Art Therapy for Students (5:55)
- How Art Making Facilitates Therapy (5:37)
- Examples of Benefits (7:17)
- Art Therapy Groups (3:14)
Special thanks to the individuals interviewed for sharing their experience, knowledge and insights: David Baudemont, Art Therapist – Saskatoon, SK, Glen Campbell – Principal, Kootenay Lake School District No. 8, Cheryl Grant – Teacher, Kootenay Lake School District No. 8, Linda Mahoney, Art Therapist – Nelson BC, Kathy Spiers – Principal, Kootenay Lake School District No. 8 and Karen Wallace, Art Therapist – Regina SK. The views and opinions expressed in these videos are those of the individuals interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency or of Dianne Shannon.