Art Therapy

Re-centre has for main focus to help patients through their journey to recovery in a holistic way. Not only patients are treated medically and through the attendance to psychology therapy groups, Re-centre also offers them alternative therapies such as art therapy,  providing them with the opportunity to self-express via creative channels.

What is Art Therapy?

Despite our natural inclination to express ourselves visually, art therapy is a relatively new field, in comparison to medicine and other health professions. It can be described as a hybrid discipline based on the fields of both art and psychology.

There are various art therapy approaches but central to all orientations is the commitment to the art process. It is the presence of the art form that distinguishes art therapy. The emphasis is on the inherent healing qualities of the art process rather than purely on the finished art product. Art making can provide individuals with the opportunity to express themselves in creative and non-linear ways, which can deepen the experience of the self.

Art therapy works by contributing to changes in your inner world and towards the development of a more integrated sense of self, with increased self-awareness and acceptance.

Art therapy is suitable for all ages and people who may be experiencing life changes, trauma, illness or disabilities causing distress for the individual and for their family. No art experience is necessary.

Some of the main benefits of this approach include:

  • Emotional Safety – it can offer people a safe way to share their feelings in a non-confrontational manner.
  • Art Space – the actual space can offer a place to explore, experiment, test boundaries, make a mess, let go, process unconscious and conscious material and reflect it back in an acceptable manner with a trained therapist.
  • Metaphor – the use of art materials also lends itself to metaphor and symbolic language, as a powerful way to offer insight into repressed or unconscious emotional states, and subsequent behaviours
  • Empowerment – exploring the symbolic work in a safe and positive way to help patients embody more agency in their lives, as a bridge to making more mature and healthy choices as they progress through recovery.
  • External mindful expression – can be a very powerful yet accessible and mindful way to externally express their internal feelings and sensations which can be very calming and stress relieving.
  • Tangible Reference – creating something tangible within the sessions and groups allows the experience to be retained and referred to later in the therapeutic process if necessary.

As with any other mental health professional, the main objective is for the therapist and patient/client to develop a dynamic interpersonal relationship, with clear boundaries and goals.

What differs, however, is the inclusion of the art materials and art making process. This can be described as a triangular relationship involving the therapist, the client and the artwork produced in the sessions.

Therapy is the primary goal of the art making process, so in order to offer both art and therapy the art therapist must be trained as a clinician and be skilled at managing the client’s comfort with the unfamiliar art making processes.

Knowledge of art materials is critical since the experience can greatly impact the client’s sense of safety. For example, whilst clay and paint are both expressive in quality and can have a powerful therapeutic effect for someone suffering from anxiety, the lack of boundaries could potentially overwhelm a client suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) who dislikes mess and chaos. So if these materials are used too soon within the treatment it can be detrimental to the entire therapeutic relationship.

Art therapists also have the ability to refer to allied health professionals should the client require further treatment. In Australia, the only recognised art therapists are those with a Masters degree and who are professionally registered with the governing associations, ANZACATA or PACFA.

The presence of a trained art psychotherapist in both individual sessions and art therapy groups alongside medical supervision can all support patients experience a more positive and holistic recovery.