by Meghan Bernier, LCPAT
Many times, in my career I have been asked “Are you an artist?” “Are you a therapist?” “What exactly do you do?” “Is it arts and crafts?” “What if I can’t draw?” “Do I have to be creative?” “Is art therapy only for kids?”
Yes, I am an artist and a therapist and an Art Therapist. Art created as an artist is product-focused, meaning, the art is created with the understanding that the completed piece will be viewed by others. Art created in art therapy is process-focused, meaning, the art is created as a method of release, expression, communication, and/or insight. This art is not expected to be pretty or beautiful, it is the act of making it that has therapeutic value. Art allows us access to our true, authentic internal self. No, it is not arts and crafts, it does not require artistic skills, high levels of creativity, and there is no age limit.
Art therapy can be as simple as exploration of art materials, or as complex as giving containment to an uncomfortable emotional response that we no longer need to carry in our minds or hearts. Our mental health does not follow cookie cutter rules, it is as unique as our fingerprint. Depression, anxiety, substance use/abuse, all mental health concerns are not the same for everyone so neither should our treatment and therapy be the same for everyone. Art therapy has the benefit of being as diverse as our needs and can be designed to be as unique as each of us in order to be the most effective. Art Therapy combined with the verbal part of talk-therapy empowers, enlightens, and strengthens.