Art therapy: what is it and what are the benefits of doing it?

There are several ways to seek mental well-being – some, by the way, can actually act as a therapeutic resource. Therefore, if done with responsible and duly qualified professionals, these practices help in mental health .

Art therapy is one of those tools that can be integrated into psychological treatments with various purposes, such as relieving stress or just understanding each person’s ways of expression.


What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a therapeutic practice that seeks self-knowledge and the treatment of mental and emotional conditions through art.

Despite having a relationship, it is not considered an approach to psychology, and can be practiced by people who are not psychologists.

Various forms of artistic expression are used in art therapy, with an emphasis on plastic arts such as paintings, drawings, sculptures, modeling, weaving, etc. But other types of art are also used, such as music, storytelling, character creation, among others.

It is important to remember that there is no need for talent or mastery of the techniques to perform art therapy, considering that their focus is on the symbolic expression brought by the arts, with no concern with the aesthetic issue.


Art therapy is suitable for all ages, but it is often used with children because of the limited ability to verbalize their feelings and conflicts.

What are the foundations of art therapy?

One of the main psychological currents that influenced the emergence of art therapy was the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung, a psychologist who used artistic expression in his office.

For him, art is one of the main ways of expressing the personal and collective unconscious simultaneously.

In Brazil, Nise da Silveira, a psychiatrist who was a student of Jung, was one of the first people to work on the issue of art in the treatment of people with mental disorders. For this reason, she is considered a revolutionary in mental treatment in the country.

However, currently, art therapy is not limited to Jungian reading, but can also be practiced by those who do not follow Jung’s teachings.

What types?

Art therapy can be classified according to the type of art being used. Are they:


Art therapy can be done through painting and drawing

Painting is an extremely interesting modality for the representation of emotions due to the fluidity of the materials.

The way the brushstrokes and colors used are made, as well as their arrangement on the canvas, say a lot about what the person is feeling at the moment. Even abstract paintings can pass on a lot of information to an art therapist.


The drawing does not express the reality itself, but the way the person sees things.

Working with elements such as spacing, spatial and visual coordination, as well as the themes present in the illustrations, it is possible to understand some internal conflicts that the person may have difficulty expressing in words.


Storytelling makes it possible to work on the establishment of bonds, identification and empathy with the characters presented in the stories.

Therefore, it is an activity that works on interpersonal relationships, in addition to providing moments of relaxation, relaxation, fun and emotional well-being.


The body can also be a great tool for expressing and working on emotions.

An energetic dance can handle expressing negative feelings like anger without harming anyone. Other negative and positive feelings can be expressed through dance, helping with emotional regulation.


Art therapy can use music and sounds to develop individual expression

Like dance, music also provides the full expression of feelings without harming anyone.

It can be a little difficult to produce music if the patient has no experience with it before, but it is possible to work with musical elements, such as rhythms and melodies, as well as percussion in the body, even with people who do not know how to compose.

Creative writing

The focus of creative writing is the flow of thought. As with verbal therapy, it is important for the patient to write down what goes on in their head.

The difference is that it is often easier to write something than to say it out loud. Therefore, writing can help in these cases.

What is the role of Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a process in which one seeks to work on self-knowledge and the resolution of emotional conflicts through art.

These emotional conflicts can be traumas, feelings about the illness process, problems with self – esteem , stress, among others.

In addition, art therapy also helps in the development of physical, cognitive and emotional resources, in order to allow a less limited self-expression.

When compared to verbal therapies, art therapy insinuates that artistic creation is a lighter and more pleasurable way of bringing patient conflicts into awareness.

Furthermore, verbal therapies are subject to censorship that the patient does to himself, which does not occur so often in artistic expressions.

Benefits: what is its importance in mental health?

There are several benefits to mental health associated with art therapy. Some of them are:


Often, the word is not enough to be able to express what we are feeling.

Art, however, can fill this gap in the capacity for self-expression, allowing the expression of feelings and ideas by other means.

As such, it also helps in the individual’s ability to communicate.

Better understanding of yourself

Often, our inner issues are not very clear to us, and being able to understand them can be a challenge. Through art therapy, it is possible to get to the root of these problems and better understand yourself.

This is because, according to Freud’s psychoanalysis and Jung’s analytical psychology, art manages to be a means of access to the unconscious – a part of us, from which we have no conscious access, and where are our greatest internal conflicts.

The word can often be a way of accessing these contents, but sometimes it suffers some censorship, especially because depending on what is in the unconscious, it is difficult to accept it consciously.

Through art, it is often possible to express these internal conflicts in a symbolic way, so that it does not undergo censorship.

A good art therapist will be able to perceive the symbols present in the production and help the patient to understand them, as well as work with them.

Cognitive improvements

The process of producing an artistic piece, whatever it is (drawing, sculpture, creative writing, music, etc.) requires a lot of our cognitive activity.

So it is a great exercise to improve certain cognitive functions, such as memory, focused attention, among others. It is also possible to see an improvement in creativity and imagination.

Combat stress and anxiety

Art therapy activities can be quite relaxing, which helps to combat stress and anxiety , which in turn are great enemies of mental health.

How does an art therapy session work?

Art therapy can be practiced once or twice a week, according to the specialized evaluation

Art therapy sessions last an average of 1 hour and can occur 1 to 2 times a week. They can be individual or group.

Depending on the person’s age, sessions may take more or less. Babies and very young children, for example, have the session aimed at teaching parents to stimulate the child’s artistic expression.

Group sessions can take more than 1 hour, depending on the size of the group of people.

The first session, as well as several other types of therapy, is focused on understanding the patient’s complaint. For this, the therapist may ask what the problem is, the patient’s life history, among others.

Therapists then outline a therapy plan in which some form of art must be produced. After this definition, they start the sessions in which they actually work with some art.

During this process, therapists will observe the patient producing his work and, occasionally, he may question some things, such as what is the most difficult and easiest part of the process, how does the patient feel producing the work, what are the memories and thoughts that come to mind as the patient works, among others.

From this, the therapist will be able to point out some observations about the process, bringing to the patient’s awareness some things that were not so clear to him before.

Art therapy is a tool that can be used to improve knowledge about yourself, helps in the expression of feelings and emotions, in addition to being able to be aligned with psychological therapy to help in well-being and mental health.

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