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Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy utilizes free expression to help patients work through struggles that talk therapy may not be able to help with. Learn more here.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy uses various forms of creativity, free expression, and integrative methods that allow patients to work through mental health struggles where talk therapy might have failed. Art therapy can be beneficial for individuals of almost any age, and it has been utilized for both young and old age groups to help with mental health disorders, Alzheimer’s, and other mood disorders. Art therapy aims to help patients resolve and express their emotions, past conflicts, or other issues that may be bothering them or worsening symptoms of other disorders. 1

When is Art Therapy Used?

Art healing therapy can be beneficial for many different people, regardless of if they struggle with a mental health disorder or not. The goals of art therapy are to work through conflicts or emotions, meaning that the effectiveness of art therapy depends on who is receptive to it. For many, art therapy counseling is a great tool if they don’t like talk therapy or find verbal therapy more difficult than using physical activities to express themselves.

Most commonly, however, art therapy is used for those experiencing a mood or mental disorder, along with those who might have an alcohol or substance abuse disorder. 2

Art therapy

Techniques Used in Art Therapy

There are various techniques used in art therapy, which greatly depend on the patient’s symptoms or disorders. Art therapy for mental health requires an art therapist to assess what methods will work best for you, as art therapy for depression will look different from art therapy for trauma recovery.

Art therapy tools can look like: 3

  • Coloring
  • Doodling and scribbling
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Sculpting
  • Working with clay
  • Collaging
  • Carving

What Art Therapy Can Help With

For those who wish to start art therapy, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Many may not even know if art therapy will work for them, as it’s still a relatively newer technique and is not as “highly regarded” as many psychotherapy techniques. However, research has shown that art therapy can be beneficial for those that struggle with:

Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy Activities

Art therapy is often used in conjunction with other therapy or medication, depending on the patient’s needs. This is the case for many mood disorders and those with PTSD or substance abuse disorders. Art therapy techniques allow patients to calm their minds and alleviate stress in myriad ways while fostering positivity. Other benefits of art therapy techniques and activities will be detailed below. 4


Individuals who start art therapy may also find other benefits in the programs, including self-discovery. Many patients have reported feeling surer of themselves emotionally and mentally while also being able to express themselves in ways they didn’t previously know or understand.


Many people who begin art therapy for depression, anxiety, or substance abuse disorders, have found that it also increases their overall self-esteem. This allows many people to work through future hardships more easily while potentially preventing relapse in substance or alcohol users.

Emotional Release

Many people cannot adequately express their emotions verbally to loved ones in their life or find it hard to do so in a psychotherapy setting as well. Art therapy allows patients to emotionally release whatever they may be holding on to in a different way while expressing themselves at the same time.

Stress Relief

Art is also a great stress reliever for millions of people, even if they’re not in art therapy programs. Art allows us to creatively express ourselves and relieve whatever stress or struggles we may be experiencing.

Art Therapy vs. Expressive Arts Therapy

Expressive arts therapy is a subset of art therapy, and while both models aim to help patients, in the same way, there are still multiple differences between the two. Art therapy will draw from any of the methods mentioned above, and art therapists will work with the patient to create and foster positive change. However, art therapy will generally only focus on one technique, and many art therapists specialize in only a few forms of art, all of which are visual forms of art, such as painting and sculpture.

On the other hand, expressive arts therapy is a multimodal approach wherein the therapist and patient will utilize multiple forms of art within the session or program. Expressive arts therapists are well-versed in many techniques and tools to help patients who might need a more varied approach. Expressive arts therapy will also sometimes integrate art forms that are not just visual, such as music and dancing. 5

Limitations and Concerns of Art Therapy

While art therapy benefits numerous patients, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some drawbacks to the technique. Art therapy can exacerbate those emotions for patients who feel pressured or stressed by creating art, creating a wall between their emotional or mental state, and working through conflicts.

Also, art therapy sessions are generally only about an hour long. These time constraints can cause individuals to need to speed through their work, which may not reflect how they’re feeling emotionally. Many patients, especially those who struggle with anxiety or self-esteem issues, may feel worried about being “judged” for their art skills, even though art therapy is not used to create “good” art. It’s a tool to help patients express themselves and work through mental health symptoms.

Art Therapy at Genesis Recovery

If you or a loved one think you may want to experience the benefits of art therapy, contact Genesis Recovery today. We have specialized therapists who are experienced in how to utilize the various techniques of art therapy to help you work through anxiety, mood disorders, trauma, or substance abuse disorders.

Get in touch with us today and get started on the road to recovery with art therapy techniques.

Art Therapy


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