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Frequently asked questions about art therapy

What if I have no artistic talent?

While few feel the need to qualify for the Olympics to go swimming or out for a run, it seems we live in a culture where only children or people designated as talented are comfortable making art.

Human beings have an inherent need to move and express ourselves in particular ways. Unfortunately, art has been simultaneously devalued as regressive and mystified to a leisure-class pastime. Consequently, many of us hold ourselves to impossibly high or arbitrary standards.

Many people do benefit from learning a few techniques from an art therapist or instructor, and many people find some materials more agreeable and user friendly than others. Art therapists work with a variety of materials, so even if you feel you can't draw, or have no desire to learn, there will be plenty in the studio to keep you busy.

Art Therapy sounds nice and all, but don't I need to talk out my problems to get at the really deep stuff?

Current research in the study of the brain consistently points to non-verbal modalities as ways of accessing material that may be too traumatic or painful to talk, or even think about without excessive distress.

Making art is a way of introducing an additional kind of communication that sometimes illuminates a different aspect of one's experience.

Why see an art therapist when I can take classes, or make art on my own?

Although an art therapy group may look like a class, there are some fundamental differences: the focus in art therapy is not on technique or making art that would be considered aesthetic, marketable, or whatever other terms may denote success in the traditional art studio.

While clients typically find that they are able to develop a greater sense of mastery as they resolve conflicts and inhibitions, art therapy works in the service of self-understanding. Many people find that talking about the work and its contents enhances the therapeutic benefit. For others, simply giving concrete form to overwhelming or confusing feelings is helpful in itself.