Is It Art Therapy or Not? Art at Home

Art School Drawing Pencils Paint
Tim_Jacob_Hauswirth / Pixabay

“Art as therapy” is professional lingo used by art therapists – and what it means in plain English is that doing art is good for you. Art is therapeutic.

For most people, creating art for its own sake is relaxing.

To back that up, neuro-scientific research shows that art is healing. It is good for your mind, body, and soul.

Which is an important reason why the field of art therapy was created.

As an art therapist, I very much appreciate the healing power of art and creativity and want you to benefit from that.

But, benefiting from art is not the same as art therapy. And, when I suggest art ideas that can be therapeutic and fun, which you can try out on your own, they are not art therapy.

Nor are these art activities a replacement for art therapy with a trained art therapist, which is an entirely different and powerful process. 

In a few words, art therapy is the therapeutic process of using art, accompanied by a professionally trained therapist, to achieve insight, healing, and change. That’s a very basic summary, but I will elaborate in a later post.

So, what happens when you do art at home?

Doing art at home is an amazing opportunity to express yourself.

And, doing art at home can be incredibly healing.

Yet, while you may find your art insightful, it is not the same as an art therapy session. And as an art therapist, that’s a very important distinction.

So, while I’ll share art activities for you can do on your own, I am not pretending that it’s art therapy. These activities are an opportunity to engage in expressive art and creative activities, which a lot of people find calming and healing.

We can call it “art AS therapy.”

I do want to offer a word of caution before you start any art activity at home.

And that is – and this is important – making art can sometimes stir up strong feelings, memories, and/or emotions.

That’s because art-making activates the right side of the brain, which is similarly located to where trauma is stored.

If you notice emotional pain, distress, or uncomfortable physical symptoms while you’re doing art, stop and assess yourself.

Don’t continue without trying to understand what’s going on.

Find someone to talk to. Learn about self-care in this post, and practice it.

With that said, you are ready to begin making art.

Keep in mind that being creative has no rules. You can take each directive at face value or use it as a springboard for your own ideas.

Let your creativity flow and enjoy the process!