Whether psychotherapy or art psychotherapy, the aim of therapy is to provide a safe, confidential space that allows people to explore how they feel about things, whether it’s relationships, circumstances or life in general. Both therapies are proven to help many people with problems they find difficult or painful, so they can live their lives more fully.
Both psychotherapy and art psychotherapy are appropriate for a wide range of issues ranging from self-development to identity issues, depression, anxiety, relationships, bereavement, physical illness, existential concerns and mental health issues.
Art psychotherapy is a form of psychodynamic therapy that uses imagination, art making and creative processes in the context of a therapeutic relationship.
Psychotherapy is also very much informed by imagination and creative processes, (such as dreams) but art materials are not generally used in the sessions.
In practice, both art psychotherapy and psychotherapy cross over. You may find that you start a course of therapy wanting just talking, and then at some point find it helpful to use art materials. Or that you embark on therapy not wishing to talk and prefer to express or explore your feelings through using art materials, yet over time find yourself just talking and not using art materials any more. Your unconscious will know best, and any combination is just fine. Whether verbal or art psychotherapy, I feel strongly that therapy should offer a permissive thinking space.
One that I think this poem by Rilke describes so well…..
This is the creature there has never been.
They never knew it, and yet, none the less
they loved the way it moved, its suppleness,
its neck, its very gaze, mild and serene.
Not there, because they loved it, it behaved
as though it were. They always left some space.
And in that clear unpeopled space they saved
It lightly reared its head, with scarce a trace
of not being there. They fed it, not with corn,
but only with the possibility
of being. And that was able to confer
such strength, its brow put forth a horn. One horn.
Whitely it stole up to a maid, – to be
Within the silver mirror and in her.
Rilke. 1960. Sonnets to Orpheus 2,iv
French 15th Century tapestry.