Art Therapy for Adults: How Creative Expression Can Improve Mental Health

Today, many people understand the importance of prioritizing self-care and the usefulness of therapy. If you are one of those folks, you may be a little overwhelmed by the different forms of therapy available. You may also feel that more traditional types like talk therapy aren’t quite the right option. 

You’ve probably heard of art therapy, a form of therapy that uses creative expression to improve mental health and well-being but you may not know exactly how it works or whether it can help you. With that in mind, let’s explore the many benefits of art therapy for adults, different types of art therapy techniques and exercises, and how to find a qualified art therapist. 

What is Art Therapy?

What if there was a way to express yourself and work through your concerns without relying solely on words? That’s where art therapy comes in. As a unique form of psychotherapy, art therapy encourages individuals to explore their emotions through creative mediums like painting, drawing, or sculpture.

Unlike traditional talk therapy, art therapy focuses on the process of creating rather than the final product. By using the artwork as a means of communication and exploration, art therapists create a safe and non-judgmental environment where clients can freely express themselves. This can help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and develop useful coping skills.

Art therapy can be a powerful tool for addressing a variety of mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, and grief. And by tapping into your creative side, you can begin to explore and understand your emotions in new and meaningful ways.

Benefits of Art Therapy

According to the American Art Therapy Association, “Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.” Put more simply, art therapy uses art-making to help you develop self-awareness, cope with difficult emotions, and build resilience.

One of the primary benefits of art therapy is that it allows you to express yourself without talking. Talking about trauma, emotions, and fears can be incredibly difficult for a lot of people; art therapy lets you tap into the hard stuff without requiring you to verbalize it. 

Engaging in art therapy is a holistic approach to your mental health that takes into account your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Making art allows you to access different parts of your brain, allowing you to communicate and process emotions in ways that may be difficult through verbal language alone.

Some of the other advantages of art therapy include:

  • A safe space for self-expression
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Coping skills
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improvements to mood
  • Encourages socialization and communication

In an article published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers highlighted the many studies that show how well art therapy works in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, its also used for those dealing with cancer, autism, dementia, mental disorders, and cognitive impairment. Ultimately, art therapy offers a unique and effective approach to mental health treatment that can help you achieve greater self-awareness, resilience, and emotional well-being.

Types of Art Therapy

There are as many different types of art therapy as there are different types of art. Your art therapist will work with you in different modalities and using different techniques. Here’s a look at some common art therapy techniques and exercises used in sessions: 

  • Art journaling
  • Free drawing or painting
  • Collaging 
  • Guided imagery
  • Sculpture
  • Creating self-portraits

You might explore different techniques during an art therapy session depending on your needs and preferences. For instance, your therapist may suggest art journaling or painting as a way to tap into your emotions and inner world. Collaging or self-portraiture can be useful for processing traumatic experiences or exploring different parts of your identity. 3D art making (like sculpture, textiles, or pottery) is a hands-on approach that can be particularly helpful for individuals who benefit from tactile stimulation or have difficulty expressing emotions through two-dimensional art. 

Finding an Art Therapist

If you’ve decided that art therapy sounds right for you, your next step is to find an art therapist. This process involves not just locating a therapist but doing initial research that can help you see if they might be a good fit. Then, you can consult with the therapists you identified and get a feel for their approach. Finding the right therapist can take time, but don’t be discouraged! The benefits are worth the time. 

Some factors to keep in mind as you begin searching for a therapist include:

  • Location: Finding local therapists is your first step; keep in mind that telehealth can be an option for some (and decide whether it makes sense for you to do art therapy via virtually)
  • Availability: It can sometimes be challenging to find a therapist that has the availability you need, so keep in mind that this could be a factor in your decision. 
  • Cost and insurance: Your insurance may or may not cover art therapy. It also may or may not cover specific therapists. Paying out-of-pocket often opens more opportunities but therapy can be expensive
  • Personalities and approaches: Part of finding a therapist is determining whether your personalities work well together. You may also have preferences about their approaches, experience, or specialties. 

Additional factors might come up as you research or consult with therapists, such as communication styles, cultural background, certifications, and, ultimately, your trust of and comfort level with whoever you work with. 

There are resources that can help you identify therapists in your area; the American Art Therapy Association and Psychology Today are a few such resources, but note that not every therapist is going to be listed in any one directory.

Additionally, google searches can do a lot to help you learn more about potential therapists. You can read reviews or testimonials, learn about their practice, and find any information they have shared online. You can learn a lot from the internet, but remember that you’ll learn a lot more once you meet with them. The consultation, initial appointment, and, if you continue to meet with them beyond that, will help you determine if they are the right fit. You might need to meet with several therapists to find your match. 

Art Therapy at Home

If you’re ready to dive right in, why not try art therapy for yourself, right now? At Painting Your Soul, our Soul Care™ box offers a unique opportunity to explore your inner creativity and embark on a journey of self-discovery, self-care, and healing. 

Soul Care allows you to explore art therapy from the comfort of your own home. It provides all the tools and resources needed to embark on a journey of self-discovery, self-care, and healing. By utilizing the expressive mediums included in the box, you can tap into your inner creativity and engage in the therapeutic process on your own terms.

Painting Your Soul and Soul Care™ were created by a Certified Art Therapy Practitioner. Soul Care™ is designed to help people heal and connect with their inner selves through the therapeutic benefits of art-making, meditation, journaling, and more. It is a step-by-step experience designed for those without artistic experience, with its benefits found in the therapeutic process, not the finished artwork. As you progress through the experience, Soul Care™ will guide you on a journey of self-reflection, self-love, healing, and peace. Soul Care™ has the ability to uniquely impact each user and provide you with the insight and healing you need based on your current stage of life.

Read how Soul Care™ has affected the lives of many already.