Art Therapy in 30 Seconds

Amy Hahn, ATR |

Professionally trained art therapists can help process your story ...

The decision to seek professional help is rarely an easy one. I have worked with a number of people challenged with a variety of life experiences. From adults struggling with depression to teens facing anxiety and mental illness, I have committed myself to the belief that even short-term therapy can be extremely valuable.

After moving from Chicago to Eau Claire a year ago, I connected with the Eau Claire School of Music to continue my art therapy efforts through my private practice within their space. They truly embody the Chippewa Valley’s vibrant love for the arts and community and offer a space in which I can continue to help others.

What is art therapy, you ask? When I explain to people what I do for a living, nine times out of 10 they cannot comprehend exactly what it is that I do. “I am an art therapist.” I follow that beat of silence by giving my 30-second description. It’s a better “bang for your buck” than just talking about therapy because art creation activates the entire brain, like fireworks going off in your head.

Art accesses parts of the brain where non-verbal memories are stored, and a professionally trained art therapist helps process your story to guide the path to healing.

Here’s how the American Art Therapy Association (2017) defines this form of therapy: The practice requires knowledge of visual art and the creative process, as well as of human development, psychological, and counseling theories and techniques. Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They are knowledgeable about human development psychological theories; clinical practice; spiritual, multicultural, and artistic traditions; and the healing potential of art.

Traditional talk therapy only activates minimal parts of your brain at a time.

Making art during therapy “levels the playing field” between client and therapist because both people are engaged in the creative process. Being in art therapy helps people develop healthier strategies for upsetting situations and view challenges from an alternative perspective. Plus, no previous art experience is required. Stick figure drawings are welcome!

To demystify what takes place during art therapy a little more, if you were to attend a workshop or private session you could expect to be welcomed into a warm, non-judgmental environment. Greeted with a table of thoughtful, curated art supplies according to goals you are working on.

As one of my clients explained from their perspective, “Art therapy provides a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental space that helps me explore things that I don’t always have the words to talk about or to understand. Finding answers and healing in the process of actually doing something is such a relief. It feels proactive and extremely validating to have my anxieties take shape outside of myself and to be able to manipulate them in cool and beautiful ways with different mediums.”