One of the most common question we hear is, “What is Art Therapy?”. It is a great question because it can take many forms! Art Therapy is a mental health profession that enriches the lives of individuals of all ages (including adults), families, couples and communities through the process of art making, creativity, psychology and the human experience. The healing process of art therapy takes place within the same psychotherapeutic relationship as traditional talk therapy. Art Therapy is facilitated by a trained Art Therapist who is a professional with a Master’s level degree and either licensure or board certification in art therapy. Art Therapists have a vast knowledge of how to safely utilize and manage the art content clients create in sessions. All of our clinicians at Sage House hold Masters degrees in Art Therapy and are registered and board certified through the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATBC). Our therapists are also active members of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) as well as the local Washington DC art therapy association (PATA). Many of our clinicians present annually at the national conferences held throughout the United States. To learn more about Art Therapy, please visit the AATA website at or visit our blog by clicking here.
We know that with you entrust your mental health is extremely important and that it may feel overwhelming to jump into something new you have never tried before. For this reason, our art therapists work with you to find just the right balance between art and counseling, always empowering you with the best choice for you. Your modality of therapy may also evolve over time. For example, many clients come to our practice with an interest in art therapy, but express concerns about “not being artistic” or feeling like they “don’t know what to create”. If you feel that way, you are not alone and we hear you. We want to work with you to create a therapy experience that is comforting and supportive, while introducing you to tools and ways of working that may be helpful in bringing about healing and lasting change. This means we listen to your concerns and therapy goals and together, create a plan that works best for you.
Louder Than Words: Why Clients Choose Art Therapy Over Counseling Alone
Art Therapy provides a dynamic way to address the same concerns clients discuss during talk therapy session. Because art making requires the use of art materials, the client is invited to engage multiple senses: the kinesthetic, the sensory, the perceptual and the symbolic. Language alone cannot fully communicate some of the emotions and experiences humans have. Research also tells us that trauma can inhibit our ability to create a linear, cohesive story of an event. Often, we have flashbulb memories or fragmented bits and pieces that float in our consciousness. Through art we give visual and symbolic expression to these experiences. And for the first time clients can feel empowered and able to make sense of what happened when words failed to express the depth and pain of the experience.
Art Therapists also work to help foster self-awareness and compassion, promote insight and understanding, cultivate resilience, enhance social skills and compassion, reduce distress and resolve internal conflicts and relationship challenges. While traditional talk therapy engages the linguistic, logical side of the brain, art therapy engages the parts of the brain specializing in visual and sensory memories. These visual parts also happen to be where emotional content, memory and trauma are imprinted. Through the process of engaging the visual parts of the brain, we also create a direct pathway to access traumatic memories and experiences. Many of the experiences, perceptions and feelings linked to traumatic events are often too difficult to put words too. This is where art therapy can work as a vehicle to bring into the light what may have previously felt impossible or unmanageable to express. In the guidance of a trained and certified art therapist we can safely and mindfully explore traumatic experiences in a way that feels manageable, cathartic and ultimately provides healing and closure. Clients who have spent years in talk therapy alone find art therapy is the catalyst for depth and resolution of even the most deeply-rooted issues.
Interested in learning more about how art therapy may help support you? Visit the AATA video library to see the leading art therapists speak to the efficacy of art therapy in their clinical practice.
We care deeply about the needs of our community and strive to advocate for those needs through our services, resources, and partnerships.
We’re not perfect. And neither are you. And that’s okay. We celebrate what your version of wellbeing looks like instead of fitting you into a predetermined box.
Therapy doesn’t always have to be heavy and serious. It can be light and playful and funny, and we take pride in cultivating an atmosphere of joy amidst transformative healing.