Art therapy is a form of psychotherapeutic intervention based on visual art techniques such as painting, sculpting and drawing and is part of the expressive therapies (or creative arts therapies) array which also includes other creative modalities such as drama, movement, music and sandplay. Therapeutic arts-based methods may facilitate expression of difficult experiences and emotions which can be challenging for the client to communicate verbally and therefore contribute to self-discovery, self-confidence and self-actualisation (Boehm et al., 2014). Artistic experience is not required when engaging in art therapy therapy.
ANZACATA, the peak professional body representing creative arts therapists in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia/Pacific region describes creative arts therapy as "an experiential psychotherapeutic approach utilising arts modalities within a relationship with a trained therapist, attending to emotional, cognitive, physical and spiritual well-being."
Artmaking involves various processes which stimulate complex coordination of different brain regions (Lusebrink, 2004) and has been described as mind-body interaction leading to a different way of knowing than through verbal expression and cognitive understanding alone (Malchiodi, 2013). For example, clay sculpting is a rich somatosensory experience, involving varied haptic perceptions ranging from gentle forming of the material and smoothing a surface to intense physical manipulation entailing body movement. Clay sculpting also engages perceptual and cognitive skills such as decision-making, memory, concentration and emotional expression. Arts-based modalities have been found to stimulate right-brain activity and aid processing of affective information held in the body, resulting in the integration of multisensory experiences, emotion regulation and psychophysiological attunement (Elbrecht & Antcliff, 2014; Lusebrink, 2004; Nan & Ho, 2017).
In addition to my bachelors degree in Art Therapy in Germany I am currently completing a masters degree in Counselling at the University of the Sunshine Coast which includes methods of expressive therapies as well as a certificate in Healing Trauma with Guided Drawing at the Institute for Sensorimotor Art Therapy.
Furthermore, I am increasingly integrating elements of sound making and bilateral expressive and somatic approaches into my practice, supporting a strength-based therapeutic approach, that is developmentally sensitive, neurobiology-informed and has been found particularly beneficial for treating complex trauma and PTSD in forming new neurological pathways through embodied, rhythmic and repetitive expression.
My therapeutic framework can be described as person-centred, strength-based and trauma-informed, utilising therapeutic arts-based methods, drawing from somatic therapies, neuroscience, attachment theory, as well as more cognitive modalities. Sessions are generally guided by the client and I regard my role as supporting individuals who are seeking help for challenging aspects in their lives in finding their own solutions and helpful ways of coping with difficulties.
My approach is informed by following theories:
Boehm, K., Cramer, H., Staroszynski, T., & Ostermann, T. (2014). Arts therapies for anxiety, depression, and quality of life in breast cancer patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014, 1-9.
Elbrecht, C., & Antcliff, L. R. (2014). Being touched through touch. Trauma treatment through haptic perception at the clay field: A sensorimotor art therapy. International Journal of Art Therapy: Art Therapy and Neuroscience, 19(1), 19-30.
Lusebrink, V. B. (2004). Art therapy and the brain: An attempt to understand the underlying processes of art expression in therapy. Art Therapy, 21(3), 125-135.
Malchiodi, C. A. (2013). Expressive therapies. Guilford Publications.
Nan, J. K. M., & Ho, R. T. H. (2017). Effects of clay art therapy on adults outpatients with major depressive disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 217, 237-245