What is therapeutic art?

Therapeutic art is a collaborative and transformative artmaking experience that promotes participants’ wellness through creative expression. The key distinction of therapeutic art from art therapy is that therapeutic art facilitator is not a clinical mental health professional, and therefore goals of therapeutic art sessions are not aligned with specific mental health outcomes. Therapeutic art pursues goals of promoting participants inner harmony, creativity, self-exploration and overall sense of wellbeing.

Therapeutic art can be delivered individually or in groups by a facilitator who is an artist and/or health and wellness educator. Mind-body benefits of therapeutic art involve mindfulness, presence and relaxation while engaged in the act of creation. Therapeutic art is a tool of exploration of the self and the spirit, and one’s own creative nature.

Some therapeutic art-making studies show mental health outcomes that go beyond overall promotion of wellness (Cady, Crawford & Page, 2012; Glaister, 1994; Walsh, Culpepper Martin & Schmidt, 2004 as ref. in Pamela, 2015). Studies of therapeutic art projects found that each project, in one way or another, was linked with transformative outcomes for participants (Combat Paper, n.d.; Joe Bonham Project, n.d.; Peace Paper Project, n.d.; Veterans Artist Program, n.d.; Veteran Book Project, n.d.).  

Image courtesy of Nikolette Valikowski