Does Art Therapy Work?
I recently went to Dutch Brothers, a quirky coffee joint, after my day of seeing clients.
The barista asked me how my day was. I told her I was celebrating a great day of work with a yummy drink.
She asked, “What do you do?”
I replied, “I’m an art therapist.”
“Cool.” There was a distinct pause before she then asked, “Does it work?”
I laughed, and automatically shot back, “Yes!”
That did not automatically come out of my mouth before.
I used to question art therapy. I wondered if it was really helping anyone. It’s almost embarrassing to admit. Though I understand why I doubted it.
When I was new to art therapy, I did not have any experience or time to SEE art therapy work. All I had was clients in pain and my own hope that what I had learned in grad school would actually help.
Time has proven to be a wonderful teacher. The time to see how people evolve and change. The time to witness powerful sessions where something suddenly clicks. The time to see the fog of depression fade.
I’ve spent over 2,500 hours with art therapy clients. I’ve had the chance to see it work. I’ve also had the chance to acknowledge when it isn’t working, seek supervision and consultation, and circle back more powerfully.
Now, as part of my intake process, I have clients think about the change they would like to experience through art therapy. I then have them pick an item from my bowl (it’s a bowl with various rocks, shells, and nature objects I’ve collected on my travels) to serve as a visual reminder of the change they would like. It’s a symbol of hope.
A new client recently told me, “I don’t know that I have any hope.”
I smiled, understanding exactly where she was coming from. “It’s ok,” I told her. “I’ll hold the hope for you, until you experience it.”
If you would like to work with an art therapist, I am currently accepting new clients.