Therapeutic Processes in Art Therapy

November 17, 2011

Art therapists, like other therapists, use several different therapeutic processes to analyze and treat emotional problems in their patients. Unlike other therapists, however, art therapists’ have therapeutic techniques that center on having the patient create and interpret art pieces. This can help the patient gain personal insight as well as help them to address personal issues.

Some of the techniques used are interpreted by the art therapist instead of the student. In these techniques, the patient’s art is analyzed according to the colors, shapes and designs used. Some techniques are used to determine the current psychological state of the patient; these techniques generally involve the patient choosing geometric shapes and then recreating them. Other techniques involve the patient drawing specific pictures and then explaining the pictures; these techniques give the art therapist clues to the personality of the patient.

Who Is The Art Therapist?

August 25, 2011

The profession of art therapist is not a new one, but it is one that is not familiar to many people. Art therapists are professional therapists who have extensive training in both art and psychotherapy. In order to be an art therapist, a person must hold a master’s degree in either art therapy or a similar field. This knowledge and education allows an art therapist to help patients identify emotional problems through artistic mediums.

Most patients of art therapy are able to cope with their problems like stress and personal trauma. Art therapists can bring out in a patient the ability to gain insight into their own minds and feelings, as well as boosting the patient’s ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships. All of these things are important parts of healing, and art therapists are trained to use the artistic processes of the mind to bring these results out of their patients.

Developing Modality of the Art Therapy Schools

January 14, 2011

Once art therapy became part of the psychotherapeutic modality, another avenue opened up for healing–Art Therapy Schools. Visual expression prior to the 1940s was based on the artist’s ability to clearly express themselves, using techniques dating back to the Paleolithic era and the first cave art.

Two entirely separate things, art and healing, both complemented each other but were basically not connected as a distinctive professional tool, that is until the development of art therapy. Art Therapy Schools were then begun, as the interest in the field became popular with children with a developing ability to reach the darkest recesses of the human mind. Up until then, their trauma and crisis had been tackled by traditional talk therapies that had been used with anything short of success.

Art Therapy Schools are on the rise due to the combination of traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques that work in diverse populations, such as children, adolescents, and adults. Art therapy works because it is healing, because it works through traumatic issues–by using a person’s subconscious creativity in their drawings, paintings, photography, sculpture, and even their writing. Their underlying feelings combined with subconscious thoughts help the clients gain better insight about what has happened to them, assisted by professional art therapists and Art Therapy Schools.

Art Therapy Schools train individuals in the field of psychological assessments in order to administer and interpret them. Not a new thing, in 1906 a German psychiatrist by the name of Fritz Mohr created the world’s first drawing assessment for the purpose of psychological purposes. Right after that in 1926, a researcher by the name of Florence Goodenough created a way to measure the intelligence of children with the Draw-A-Man-Test, whereas the more details the child being tested could incorporate into the drawing–the smarter they were.

C.J. Jung once said, “The hands know how to solve a riddle with which the intellect struggles in vain.” With this in mind, the Art Therapy Schools are simply another piece of the puzzle when it comes to working with emotional conflicts on many levels of the mind. And when it comes to working with children or adolescents who are troubled and have many issues, art therapy helps to identify and reconcile such things. Visual art processes are used as the primary modality for treatments and assessments, whereas art education teaches the children or adolescents to produce and evaluate their own art work, not analyze what message it is subconsciously saying.

Schools and other institutions that work with troubled individuals share responsibilities, with the art therapist participating as a member of the treatment group. The goal of this group is to successfully assist in the development of a meaningful identity for the troubled individual.

Art Therapy in the Schools–Does it Work?

June 21, 2009

Art therapy in the schools involves professional art therapists along with preschoolers, children, adolescents, teachers, and families. The art therapist is specifically trained to recognize a struggling student’s emotional issues that are preventing them from learning. Other things, such as learning disabilities or language/speech disorders, can also be evaluated along with behavioral disorders and mental illness.

The reason art therapy in the schools works so well is because very few children of any age can resist the art-making processes–a blank piece of paper, the smell of new crayons, the feel of clay, and the visual impact of the moving watercolors. The art therapist can take this artwork and diagnose problems from it, providing certain appropriate interventions that may be needed along with specific services to assist the child in his or her developmental learning.

Some of the advantages of art therapy in the schools are the provisions of visual and verbal approaches in order to address certain child needs. An assessment by the art therapist involves giving the child or adolescent five or six art assignments, using different media. The ideas behind this is to have the child or adolescent perceive their family, themselves, their school, their friends, or anything in their environment and then apply this perception to their artwork.

Once finished, the artwork is evaluated through the art therapist, head of the art therapy in the schools program. Also evaluated is the individual’s academic history in connection with their development and family. Art therapists are trained to recognize cultural spectrums, using the artwork as an assessment evaluation in relation to the culture they are from.

Art therapy in the schools recognizes that all children’s drawings are divided up into certain stages. An advantage, it is pretty easy to distinguish when a child is behind their age level. Autism is the only separate condition when the child will be ahead of their age level, which would be easily recognized by their artwork. Children with learning disabilities have advanced creative and visual intelligence for art, yet demonstrate lower scores on the standardized tests.

It is during this level of artworks and their diagnosis that the artwork of the child or adolescent will begin to show a certain amount of deviation, depending on the amount and type of internal conflict that is present. This will be represented through the drawing style and the individual’s developmental level. One connecting example would be ADHD, where heavy coloring would represent the over-activity, yet appear small in some form of classroom setting.

The reason art therapy in the schools is important, is due to the safety levels held within the school systems for the child. Many do not have safe environments, or feel secure about themselves–school is their “other family” and the artwork is able to represent what that person is feeling inside.

Magical Applications of Art Therapy Activities

April 24, 2009

The use of art therapy activities depends a lot on the type of individual that it is being used for. Remembering that the goal of art therapy is based on each individual client’s diagnosis, their particular capabilities, individual needs, and their personal interests–an emphasis on the creative process is placed along the path instead of the final finished project.

As a rule of thumb, adults do not respond as well to art therapy activities as do children, requiring a certain degree of convincing that they have creative ability. There is an excited eagerness about children (and certain adults) when they see paint, pencils, colored paper, and clay. This is why they can respond so well to art therapy activities in a therapeutic session as compared to adults. In fact, most adults would prefer to express their own creative side in the privacy of their home in order to reduce stress. But there are times when more serious problems require the assistance of professional help–such as with an art therapist.

Art therapy activities can be successful because they have the ability to move the mind from the problem itself, in hopes of achieving peace and happiness. The Dalai Lama once said, “In the final analysis, the hope of every person is simply peace of mind.” This achievement can be accomplished with a pleasant state of conscious, on the condition there is a connection with reality. With art therapy and art therapy activities, reality can be moved and changed for a few minutes, as art can take a person’s mind off what is the problem, allowing the subconscious to come forth and speak in another language that is kinder and much more gentler.

When creating with art therapy activities, the body and mind obtains a certain flow about it, almost as if it was in a near-meditative state. Over the centuries, philosophers have been aware that meditation has the ability to blank the mind out of what is currently going on around it. In fact, the visualizations that develop through this form of creativity have the ability to build tomorrow’s desired reality, if the art is allowed to be created in a thoughtless state of pure automation.

This mind-set works well with art therapy activities, as not all children and adults can accurately verbalize about how they feel what is going on inside of their mind or their body, especially if something traumatic has happened. Not in touch with the reality of emotions and inner feelings, the mind is not free to experience the present which is where we are, but is buried in the past with hidden memories that cannot break free.

The Top Art Therapy Courses

April 15, 2009

Art therapy courses for Art Therapists are fast becoming an international phenomenon, spreading from the United States clear to Northern Ireland. But in the United States alone, the majority of art therapy education is located on both coasts only. In the U.S. College Search, only 42 Art Therapy Colleges and Universities are listed, as compared to 53 for Music Therapy.

The AATA, or American Art Therapy Association, Inc., has a list of credited schools they personally have endorses for a specific period of time, not going over seven years. And the AATA accepts long distance learning, as long as they follow the same standards of approval that apply to all programs.

The student applying for the Art Therapy courses is required to have a bachelor’s degree from any accredited institution in the United States to apply for Master-level Art Therapy courses. Another option is to be already accepted into a bachelor-master duel degree program in art therapy. But if the student is coming into the United States from another country, an academic preparation that is equivalent from the out-of-country institution is required.

Each student needs to have a portfolio of their original artwork to the school in order to be admitted to the art therapy courses. The purpose is to demonstrate their competence of using the art materials in their work. Once they are admitted, they need to successfully finish in twelve months:

• Minimum of 18 credit semester hours of study with studio art, using a variety of materials and assorted processes.
• Minimum of 12 credit semester hours of study in psychology, including developmental psychology and abnormal psychology.

In order for the art therapy courses to pertain to a Master’s degree, 48-graduate semester credits are required to meet the graduate level art therapy education standards. Some states may require 60-graduate semester credit for licensing or clinical education standards.

There are several required content areas to qualify for admittance to the art therapy courses:

• Minimum of 24 semester credits in art therapy content
• History and theory of art therapy
• Techniques of practice in art therapy
• Application of art therapy with people in different treatment settings
• Group work
• Art therapy assessment
• Ethical and legal issues of art therapy practice
• Standards of practice in art therapy
• Cultural and social diversity
• Thesis or culminating project
• Required related content areas
• Psychopathology
• Human growth and development
• Counseling and psychological theories
• Cultural and social diversity
• Assessment
• Research
• Studio Art
• Career and lifestyle development
• Practicum and Internship
• Minimum of 100 hours of supervised art therapy practicum
• Minimum of 600 hours of supervised art therapy internship over a minimum of two academic terms

Using Art Therapy for Children

March 11, 2009

Art therapy for children is when a Master-level art therapist uses the child’s unique and personal drawings in order to better understand the problems the child faces within their hidden subconscious. Used for children, adolescents, and adults–art therapy is used more often with the smaller child as they have much more difficulty in putting their emotions and feelings into words, with artwork used as a form of safe symbolic realism that cannot hurt them.

Also used as a tool for art therapy assessments, the child’s artwork assists the art therapist to better understand what the child cannot, paying special attention to the piece of art and what it represents–the theme, sequence, size, different pressure used to draw it, different types of strokes, and the tiniest details of what the child has put into the picture. Art therapy for children shows the child’s emotions and feelings they cannot talk about, such as anger, resentment, hidden sexual abuse issues, violence in their homes, chaos in their lives, and many other issues the children are not aware of themselves as they have hidden it to avoid the pain and trauma.

Art therapy for children involve three participants with no influence from anyone else–the therapist, the child, and the artwork with the hidden message the child is secretly revealing subconsciously. To use children’s art for the psychotherapeutic purpose of seeing what is uppermost in their minds is actually more genuine and spontaneous in contacting the subconscious, than the traditional talk therapy.

Not all children respond positively to art therapy for children, as some become even more frightened when they see their picture with the fears they have hid so long. Then it is up to the art therapist to keep the child’s issues on an impersonal level, keeping the discussion of the child’s fears and problems within the picture’s metaphor. According to many successful cases, eventually the child will work on some new ideas and concepts that is put in front of them by the art therapist using the art therapy for children program. Over time, they will become comfortable with facing their fears, their new feelings and emotions, and be able to move forward.

Art Therapy for Children faces unique issues when it comes to children with fatal diseases, such as cancer. And it is demonstrated that how the child responds to their illness depends a lot on how their own family talks to them about it, helping them face the fact they have such a disease and what it is about. Unfortunately, the parents of terminally ill children feel that if they do not discuss the disease with the child, the child will not recognize what is going on. In truth, when the child is held in darkness, they will feel more isolated and afraid than if they knew the actual truth.

BACP Art Therapy Provisions

March 3, 2009

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, or BACP, is today’s professional membership association for UK’s counselors and psychotherapists, a branch of the Standing Conference for the Advancement of Counselling. Originally it included only counseling, but in September of 2000 it branched out to include psychotherapy with the BACP name change from the British Association for Counselling. It was here that the BACP Art Therapy came into effect on the psychotherapy level for accepted professionalism.

Art psychotherapy uses visual expression as a form of therapy that can effect the mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders of disturbed individuals of all ages, gender, and background. To apply for BACP membership for accreditation as a BACP art therapy professional, requires qualification from a BACP art therapy accredited training course in addition to a minimum of 450 hours of supervised practice. Mandatory is 450 hours with 150 of them must be subsequent to the training completion from three to six-years. Or alternatively, the individual can be awarded a admittance from a BACP accredited training course.

A certain amount of criteria must be met before an individual can become accepted through the BACP Art Therapy in the psychotherapy division, and this criteria is met by following certain things.
• The individual is a member of BACP, and will remain so for the accreditation period. Requirements must be met to maintain the accreditation.
• The individual is covered by professional indemnity insurance.
• The individual is in practice as a professional at the time of the application.
• Training and supervised practice is provided and followed.

BACP Art Therapy plays an active part in the Faculty for Healthcare Counsellors and Psychotherapists (FHCP), as a major subsidiary organization of the BACP. With close to 2,000 members, it is the largest membership organization that is entirely associated with healthcare counselors and psychotherapist. With similar goals, both BACP and FHCP promote and support the patient’s choice of psychological therapy, along with accessible services. Their members are competent and efficient, while the organization trains and provides opportunities for their prospective counselors, such as art therapist, by providing training events and conferences.

Another division of the BACP is the Association for Independent Practitioners, or AIP, for those who are interested in the BACP Art Therapy membership but more on an independent level. Formerly the Personal Relationship Groupwork (PRG), it involves those who choose to work independently rather than within a professional group. In this region, there is more of an emphasis on clear boundaries, and provisions of support and supervision. Members from other groups and cultures are actively invited to join this group, as a part of their philosophic practices.

Child Art Therapy for Probing the Unconscious

November 28, 2008

Child art therapy involves different practices in education, rehabilitation and psychotherapy. A successful field today where art is incorporated into the psychotherapy, child art therapy is used as a means for children and their art therapist to not only visual the unconscious but also to eventually recognize it on a conscious level. Used to promote healing, art on a therapeutic level is used in many settings to benefit the child.

One of these major settings involve the school, where the art therapist helps the child with internal conflicts, using the child’s artwork to put into some form of positive action a change within. Child art therapy does not involve the art therapist alone, but the teaching and counseling staff in addition to the child’s parents and family members.

Many times, the students who are involved within the art therapy setting are special education students who are having difficulty. In this case, the child art therapy is used for conditions such as learning disabilities, emotional problems and disturbances, behavior disorders, and even physical handicaps that are the result of impaired gross and fine mother control.

Child art therapy requires a Masters level in education, which would be able to recognize the six stages of development in children’s drawings in addition to being able to connect intellectual growth in the child, their psychosocial stages of development, and this correspondence to the six stages of development in the child’s drawings. These six stages fall within certain age groups:

• The Scribble Stage - occurs 18 months to two years of age
This age demonstrates the ability to be aware of patterns, utilizing hand-eye coordination.

• The Pre-Schematic Stage - occurs four to seven years
The child may draw human figures with circles, and two dangling lines for legs.

• The Schematic Stage -occurs seven to nine years
The characteristics of this age group show what the child is thinking vs. what they are actually seeing.

• The Dawning Realism - occurs nine or two years
Demonstrating how things “really look” become important, which causes excessive frustration

When using child art therapy, the child is usually given five or six art directions by the art therapist. They will represent the child’s perception of themselves, their family, their school, or any aspect of their environment. When this is done, they will be evaluated by the art therapist in addition to looking at the child’s academic history, their personal development, and their family. Many things need to be evaluated–the child’s culture, their home life, or their financial situation, as drawings differ across the spectrum. One thing that has been noticed is when learning disabled children are found to have low intelligence measurements on standardized tests, they are significantly more advanced in creative and visual intelligence. A change such as adding a visual component may be needed to enhance their learning.

Art Therapy for Treatment of Schizophrenia

November 22, 2008

Helping people communicate what they are unable to think and feel on a normal level is the ultimate goal of art therapy, and art therapy for treatment of schizophrenia has developed its initial stages within Pennsylvania’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic with the utmost of success. According to Robyn Cruz, director of creative and expressive arts therapies, about 2,500 schizophrenia patients participate in their art therapy program for outpatients with schizophrenia for the past 15 years.

The reason that art therapy for treatment of schizophrenia is successful is because art therapy is a safe and effective tool to use with people who cannot share their thoughts and feelings adequately through the tried-and-true traditional methods of “talk therapy” conversation. And the medications that are normally documented to reduce and control the mental illness of schizophrenia are often discontinued because the side effects are sometimes worse than the disease itself.

If that is the case, art therapy for treatment of schizophrenia offers a non-objective therapy to adults who are faced with such a situation on some level. It has been documented that children over five years of age can develop schizophrenia, but very seldom does it develop before adolescence. It is difficult to accurately distinguish between different types of mental disorder from another, especially when the symptoms of the schizophrenia exhibit elated or depressed mood swings. In this case, it can be schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorders, or even major depressive disorders with similarity in all of them.

If the person cannot be categorized because of this, they are occasionally diagnosed as having a schizoaffective disorder. But on October 19, 2005 scientific research was done on art therapy for treatment of schizophrenia by R Ruddy and D Milnes, titled in “Art Therapy for schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like illnesses,” published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2005, Issue 4.

According to the study, traditional medication is the treatment of choice for patients with schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like illnesses, but five to 15% of the patients still experience the same symptoms. The study explores the benefits of art therapy in addition to medication, but still required more research at the end regarding art therapy for treatment of schizophrenia, in order to make the study more meaningful and to determine the value of the art therapy. In 2005, art therapy was not as accepted as it is within the past year or so, with the emergency of interest in natural healing and alternative methods.

One treatment center for many all types of mental disorders, located at Skyland Trail at Atlanta, Georgia, focuses on expressive arts or art therapy for those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Through art therapy, those with schizophrenia can develop ways to achieve self-expression while simultaneously being able to utilize social skills, new hobbies and personal interests through their creativity.

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