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Art Therapy

Art Therapy and How It Works

Art therapy, like music therapy, is an accepted practice in the world of counseling, psychology and clinical therapy. More importantly, art therapy is a practice that works for people of all ages, including children, adolescents and adults. Furthermore, art therapy has shown fantastic results in a number of different situations, from individual sessions to couples, family, group or even community situations. By definition, art therapy is a form of an expressive therapy that relies on the use of various art materials like paints, chalks, pastels, markers, etc. The practice of art therapy combines a deep, probing understanding of the creative process and how it works with various traditional psychotherapeutic tactics and ultimately produces programs that pay off for these reasons:

  • Art therapy is able to help practitioners increase insight and awareness.
  • Art therapy sessions offer the ability to improve a client’s judgment.
  • Art therapists strive to help people effectively cope with stress.
  • Art therapy programs help individuals work through traumatic events.
  • Creative arts therapy allows clients to embrace creativity and grow increasingly comfortable with the art of self-expression.

There is even evidence that art therapy helps to improve cognitive abilities and even the relationships the individuals have with friends, family, colleagues and life partners.

The Four Major Art Therapy Assessments

Art therapy isn’t just about creating art, but it also reveals how the art is interpreted and what it means about the artist in question. Therefore, art therapy, in order to be effective, also demands a way of measurement and assessment. Today, there are four common varieties of art therapy assessment that are widely employed by art therapists across the nation.

Diagnostic Drawing Series (DDS)

The Diagnostic Drawing Series is a three-part assessment that largely relies upon colored chalk pastels and an 18”x24” piece of paper. In the first portion of the series, clients are able to draw anything that they want. In the second, they are asked to draw a tree. In the third and final picture of the series, they are asked to represent how they feel by the clever use of lines, shapes and colors. Certified art therapists are then able to interpret these drawings to gain a deeper insight to the person’s inner state of mind and level of self-awareness.

Mandala Assessment Research Instrument (MARI)

Mandalas are images that originate from the Buddhist faith and are designs enclosed in a geometric shape. In this variation of art therapy, individuals are asked to choose a particular mandala from a deck of mandala cards and then to choose a colored card from another deck. Then, using oil pastels, they are asked to recreate the mandala they selected using the color of their choice, while working to explain any hidden meanings, experiences or other related information that may come to mind during the specific exercise.

House-Tree-Person (HTP)

Similar to the first art assessment, this particular practice has people draw three separate things (a house, a tree and a person) using a lead pencil while answering specific, open-ended questions about each one. The art therapist is trained to use these images to gain insight into particular aspects related to the artist.

Road Drawing

Though a simple task, asking clients to draw a road offers a massive amount of very personal insight including how they view their own “road of life” as well as information about their past and even their intent for the future. Over the course of therapy, the road drawn by a client can vary dramatically.

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