What is art therapy? FAQs

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Arts therapy is based on the belief that the process of engaging creatively in drama, movement or art-making, within a therapeutic relationship, supports changes in the client’s inner world, and helps them to develop a more integrated sense of self, with increased self awareness and acceptance. It assists with improving the client’s personal growth and insight, processing of traumatic experiences, and resolving of inner conflicts.

It differs from traditional art-making in that the emphasis is on the process of creating and of making meaning from the experience and the work, rather than on some aesthetic judgement or measure of the end product. The therapist and client/s seek to develop a dynamic interpersonal therapeutic relationship, with clear boundaries and goals.

FAQs for clients coming to a session 

When can art therapy help?

Art therapy can be used for:
– ‘taking stock’ and making sense of all the things going on for you right now
– processing anxiety or depression
– releasing stress
– expressing strong feelings in a safe space
– helping with change or decision making
– acknowledging various aspects of ourselves and gently accepting and integrating them
– working with myth, symbol and story to find our strengths
– marking, grieving and celebrating with the transitions into new stages or chapters of life
– making sense of spiritual experiences
– going ‘deeper’ to hear and learn from your wisest creative self

How could this help me?

Often in our everyday lives, it is difficult to recognise the stories we have unconsciously created about ourselves. Art Therapy utilise approaches that safely bypass defence mechanisms to shine a light on some of the most deeply hidden aspects of the psyche. Here, we may access the memories, perceptions and beliefs that form our personal mythology, discovering elements that were once valid but now get in the way of living a conscious and fulfilling life.


“But I don’t draw/ do art – is this still for me?”

Yes, absolutely! This is for you!! No specific art skills or experience needed. This isn’t an art class and it isn’t competitive. The emphasis is on the process and experience of creating – how it makes us feel, what new insights it can bring, and how we can make meaning from the experience and the work, rather than mastering a specific art making skill.

How do we know if we want to work together?

In our first session, I will explain to you how we would generally work together, as well as asking  you some questions about your history and experiences. I will outline my policies and practices (such as ethics, cancellation, confidentiality and payment), and provide you with space to ask me any questions. I recognise that it can be daunting to choose a therapist and the process can feel mysterious or unclear. I will do everything I can to make my approach clear so you can make an informed decision about whether you’d like to work with me on an ongoing basis.

What happens in a typical session?

A session would typically involve some client-centred humanistic counselling (talking together), followed by a short meditation, an art process which I explain to you and will help you get started on, and then more talking as we ‘amplify’ your impressions of the artwork and apply it to your life, situation or issue.

Do I need to own lots of art materials?

All art materials for the session are provided. The materials we use will vary by session and could include pencil, oil pastels, water colour paint, clay, fabric and yarn or found objects. Please wear comfortable clothing that can handle getting some paint or crayon on them should that happen.

What if I get there early?

There is tea, water and comfortable seats in our waiting area. Feel free to arrive a few minutes early to use the space, or stay after the session to gather your thoughts before heading home.

What role does the patient / client have in the process? 

I am a Member of the association called Holistic Therapists Australia – we employ therapeutic methods that address our human potential for healing and integration on multiple levels. These include the mental, emotional, embodied, social, cultural and spiritual dimensions of our lived experience. In applying these methods, I will establish a therapeutic relationship in which you, as a client, are empowered to utilise your own intuitive knowledge to regulate both the pace and direction of healing.

I’m not happy with the art therapy I received, what can I do about it? 

The Code of Conduct for unregistered health practitioners (which includes mental health professionals, community health services, health education services and many others) sets out what you can expect from your provider. If you are concerned about the health service that was provided to you or your next of kin, talk to the practitioner immediately (in this case that would be me). In most cases the health service provider will try to resolve them.

If you are not satisfied with the provider’s response, contact the Inquiry Service of
the Health Care Complaints Commission on (02) 9219 7444 or toll free on 1800
043 159 for a confidential discussion. More details about how to contact them is on this pdf. If your complaint is about sexual or physical assault or relates to the immediate health or safety of a person, you should contact the Commission immediately.