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  • Writer's pictureMar de Afetos

What is art therapy?

Emerging in the nineteenth century in England and the United States, after the devastation of the Second World War, art therapy presented itself as a form of care for soldiers due to the consequences and traumas caused by war conflicts. At that time, the artistic and psychoanalytic communities came together to investigate the benefits of art for the treatment of people with mental illness and trauma.


Therapies through art can act as:


  • Art therapy: movement of artists and healers in which they use artistic creation to help people or the world.

  • Art as therapy: where art operates as a creative and ultimately therapeutic process, in which the therapist acts as a facilitator of creative expression to promote biopsychosocial well-being and personal growth.

  • Art in therapy: in which the artistic creations work as a facilitator for verbal expression, awareness, and the construction of a bond between the internal and external worlds, with specific psychotherapeutic frameworks.

During the construction of the profession, many theorists from diverse areas have influenced the conceptualization and practice of art therapy, among them: Margaret Naumburg, Edith Kramer, Natalie Rogers and Adrian Hill.


Currently, several Institutions around the world continue to define what art therapy is:

  • For the British Association of Art Therapists, BAAT, art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art as the main mode of expression and communication.

  • The União Brasileira de Associações de Arteterapia (Brazilian Union of Art Therapy Associations) also thinks that art therapy is characterized as the use of art as a basis for the therapeutic process.

  • In Spain, the Spanish Professional Association of Art Therapists (ATe) states that art therapy is an assistant profession in which artistic creation is used to facilitate the expression and resolution of emotions, emotional or psychological conflicts, whose theoretical basis and methodology are based mainly on the theory of art therapy, group analytical psychology, dynamic psychology and contemporary art theory. While for the Federación Española de Asociaciones e Arteterapia (FEAPA), art therapy is

the process of creation through artistic language to accompany and facilitate psychotherapeutic processes and promote biopsychosocial well-being, in an informed and agreed upon the therapeutic relationship with people and/or groups of people who need it. It is based on the therapeutic potential of artistic creation in an adequate framework, to promote transformation dynamics on personal and social formation, expressive and creative development, change of subjective positioning and, where appropriate, symptomatic elaboration.

Although there are several definitions, the interconnection is in the use of the artistic expression, the creative process, and creativity as a tool in the therapeutic process to promote biopsychosocial well-being.


Just as psychology has several approaches, so does art therapy, with several approaches such as gestalt, psychoanalysis, transpersonal, humanistic, narrative, etc.


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