Art Therapy vs Arts Therapy

What a difference a letter can make! While art and arts therapies both benefit a range of the same conditions and can lead to some similar outcomes, there is an important difference. Art therapy traditionally utilises the power of strictly visual art, whereas arts or expressive therapies utilise a much more diverse range of creative expressions (such as music, dance, movement, sand-play, poetry, and drama), along with various forms of visual arts, to promote a style of therapeutic, non-verbal conversation.

By moving focus from everyday reality to the world of creativity and imagination, we are able to tap into a deep emotional place of innate understanding and self-discovery. It is not always a matter of just not wanting to talk about something, sometimes the words are simply unattainable. Creative expression has been a vital component of human communication since the dawn of time, and the use of these fundamental, primal forms of expression as therapy can help us to distinguish and identify past experiences and emotions that may not have been previously accessible.

The recent popularity of colouring books for mindfulness is a good example of art therapy, and it certainly has its benefits, but it also has many limitations. Working with a qualified arts psychotherapist will give you the important advantage of accessing a far wider range of creative methods, often utilising a number of different modalities within the same session. Having a trusted therapist to guide and support you as you gain an understanding of your inner knowledge and capabilities will provide you with the emotional safety and security needed to make the most of this internal strength and awareness.

So while the similarities of art and arts therapies are undeniable, expressive arts therapies can provide a far greater level of therapeutic benefits than their strictly visual counterpart. There’s no need to put away the colouring pencils, but there may be value in contacting a qualified arts psychotherapist and becoming acquainted with your subconscious in ways you may not have previously thought achievable.

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