Art Therapy

Published: October, 2020

Art therapy is a distinct discipline that incorporates creative methods of expression through visual art media.

It uses artistic methods to treat psychological disorders and improve mental health. The goal of art therapy is to harness the creative process to help people explore self expression and in doing so, find new ways to gain individual discernment.

There are three main ways art therapy is applied. The first is Analytic art therapy, this involves the client, the therapist and the ideas exchanged between them through art. The second is Psychotherapy, it has to with the analysis of the client’s art work by the therapist. The third method is used by practitioners who see art as a therapy, they do not focus on verbal analysis but on the creation process of the client’s art work.

In art therapy, the client is made to explore his/her inner thoughts and emotions through the use of materials such as paint, paper, pen or clay. This helps in improving their sensory motor function, self esteem and emotional resilience.


Art therapy became publicly accepted in the mid-20th century. Adrian Hill a British artist coined the term “Art Therapy” in 1942. Hill was a sanatorium patient recovering from tuberculosis when he discovered the therapeutic benefit of art. He recommended artistic work to his fellow patients.

Adrian Hill,

The practice of art therapy spread to mental hospitals with the help of Edward Adamson who demobilized after WW2 to join Adrian Hill to extend his works to the British long stay mental hospitals. In 1964, The British Association of Art Therapists was formed.

Art therapy was also practiced in the United States around the same period, Margret Noumburg and artist Edith Kramer were part of the most influential practitioners and were art therapy pioneers in the United States. The American Art Therapy Association was founded in 1969. More organizations have over the years modeled themselves after these associations.


The evolution of digital technology in the past few years has helped advance art therapy. It’s availability has greatly increased the capacity for creative illustration, communication and networking.

The area of Virtual Reality as a part of digital technology has shown prodigious growth and is used in different aspects of our lives. While this field grows rapidly and its use in therapy is widely discussed, little attention has been given its potentials as a medium for art therapy.

Virtual Reality,

Artistic expression in VR is a platform which will give us a variety of unique opportunities which goes beyond the traditional art mediums such as 3D painting, immersive creative experience, dynamic scaling and embodied expression.

Cellphones and other devices also serve as mediums for digital arts. One can create alter images by using apps made for painting and drawing. Digital technology has helped artists broaden their mediums and also impacted how art therapy goals are met or achieved.

The growing number of art therapy clients who are involved daily with digital media and networking now makes it hard for any art therapist to ignore the fact that digital art therapy should be embraced.