Joanne Osband
Watercolor Creations

What is Art Therapy?

DEFINITION Art therapy is an established mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. Art therapy integrates the fields of human development, visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms), and the creative process with models of counseling and psychotherapy. It is in essence the marriage of art and psychology.

Although art therapists do not psychoanalyze art, they are skilled in the application of a variety of art modalities (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other media) for assessment and treatment. Several pieces of art are used to form an assessment based on elements within the art and its process. Art therapy is made up of two parts, the product and the process. The process has just as much value or more than the product itself. It is through the process that the healing occurs. The product becomes the visual expression of what occurred in the process.

Art is a non-verbal language that everyone speaks and has no cultural boundaries. Although some people confess that they do not have any artistic abilities, it is my belief that artistic expression lies in all of us and requires a sense of trust and the freedom to allow the flowing for magic to happen.

ART THERAPIST An art therapist sets the stage for the magic to happen. In other words, the magic is the process by which a person explores their world using art medium to foster self-awareness guided by an art therapist. Similar to other mental health professionals, an art therapist provides a safe environment in which a person feels comfortable to share from the heart. Art therapists are masters level professionals who hold a degree in art therapy.

I see the art therapist as the symbolic Mother sharing artistic treats, the art supplies, as she would food. Thereby encouraging the child or person in this case, through the sustenance of life to tap into the essence of being and create art imbued with personal meaning. The process of creativity is transforming and allows the person to realign with oneself. Thus, creating art provides the opportunity for healing of personal issues which cause a person to be out of touch with one’s true essence. The art product is not only a representation of this process, but also a product of the Self. It is treated as one would treat another person with respect and care.

Art therapists are quickly called upon to work with children in times of disasters. They are encouraged to draw and talk about their feelings which assist them to obtain meaning and understanding as well as to move through to a healthier, happier resolution. It is the same for adults although most adults veer away from creating art.

ART THERAPY Although the field of art therapy came into being in the 1950’s, the Psychologist Carl Jung made important discoveries much earlier in regards to creating art. He began drawing circles and designs and noticed that they somehow corresponded to his inner situation, feelings, impression, and thoughts. He concluded after some study of the matter with his own drawings and also the drawings of his patients that these circular drawings were therapeutic, first to draw, then to look at. Jung finally arrived at the conclusion that the Self, the wholeness of the personality, is reflected in the mandala.

It is known that just the process of creating art is therapeutic and talking about it may or may not enhance the experience. Art crosses cultural barriers and so too does the creative process. Art therapy becomes an exceptional modality to use when language is not understood for pictures can say what words cannot. The sharing of artwork allows the person to be heard or understood as well as integrates the insights. As Carl Jung emphasized, it is a product of Self and how incredibly healing it is to have someone listen or be present when sharing at a deep personal level. This is the essence of art therapy.

IN SUMMARY an art therapist is a mental health professional who uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. Art therapy is made up of two parts; the product and the process. The process utilizes the creative process of artistic expression to promote healing. The product is an art piece representing of what occurred in the process. Art therapists are trained to understand and evoke artist self-expression whereby a person gains greater understand of himself and the world. Art therapists promote individual well-being in an environment of safety and fun where a person feels free to be himself and share from a heart.


I find it challenging to explain what I do and how to do art therapy, and the power of unharnessing artistic self-expression, especially in a short period of time. The best way to understand art therapy is to personally create art with the guidance of an art therapist. With consecutive exposure a deeper self-understanding occurs and the process evolves. It is my belief that when a person better understands oneself, then he or she is better able to help others.

I also work with individuals for approximately one hour on a sliding scale $50-$95.


Contact me and we can discuss YOUR UNIQUE NEEDS.