Art Therapy

Art, Art Therapy, Communication, Essay Writing, Expressionism, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Symbolism, Visual Culture

‘Art as Therapy: An Introduction To The Use Of  Art As A Therapeutic Technique’

So after reading up on Art Therapy I would like to share what I have found. As I was reading the introduction of the book, Art as therapy: An Introduction To The Use Of  Art As A Therapeutic Technique (edited by Tessa Dalley) I found out things I didn’t really think about before. I simply thought that Art Therapy was a patient of trauma or mental illness creating art as a form of healing while a therapist analysed their work. In a way I guess my assumption is correct however I didn’t realise how in-depth it went and how relatively new it is to the UK, as the term ‘Art Therapy’ was only introduced to Britain  in the 1940s, states Peter Fuller (1984).




Art has been around for just as long as us humans, it has been used in many forms such as expression, protest, political, historical and social contexts it is made with meaning in some way or another. In other words the artist behind the work is communicating through the use of imagery or symbols, there is a purpose to the art. In art the Art is important, however, it can be relaxing, therapeutic or satisfying to the artist no matter what the subject may be.


The purpose of therapy is healing, to change/correct or treat the disorder. Therefore Art therapy isn’t to produce a “good painting” like you would for art alone,  the person and the process are most important to art therapy, as the work being produced is a solid communicator of valuable information of how the patient is feeling. The activity of art provides the therapist with a tangible source to analyse and monitor over time to see the progression of the patients wellbeing if any.

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Art is a form of communication it conveys a story or a meaning, however in therapy, art is used to communicate feelings, a form of personal expression. For those who cannot verbally communicate their thoughts or feelings, art is used using colour and/or symbols. For example a comment from a patient within the book said about painting black silhouettes to avoid acknowledging the despair and anger they felt in themselves, they also stated they use only three colours of which represent worthlessness, anger and sometimes hope. These are just some indicators and symbols therapists analyse to gain an understanding of patients, paintings can be used as records to evaluate the progress of a patients wellbeing as they are monitored over time. For example this quote from Tessa Dalley (1984) “Symbolising feelings and experiences in images can be a more powerful means of expression and communication than verbal description.” This is suggesting that art can be more effective as a communicator than that of words, as they say a “picture says a thousand words” this is true for many psychological cases.


Tessa Dalley. (1984) Art as Therapy: An Introduction to the use of Art as A therapeutic Technique. Tavistock: Tavistock Publications.
Hannah Whitman. (2008) I can’t. Available at: (Accessed: 13 January 2018)
Sara Roizen. (2010) Woman in Yellow. Available at: (Accessed: 13 January 2018)

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