"Art therapy is the deliberate use of art-making to address psychological and emotional needs. Art therapy uses art media and the creative process to help in areas such as, but not limited to: fostering self-expression, enhancing coping skills, managing stress, and strengthening a sense of self."

--The Art Therapy Alliance



"We use the creative art process to facilitate personal well-being."

--Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy (NIGAT)


"Art Therapy is about using art as a tool for communication and through the therapeutic relationship, emotional, psychosocial and developmental needs are addressed with the intention of effecting lasting change."
--Hong Kong Association of Art Therapists (HKAAT)

Art Therapy and Mental Health

Art therapy encourages self-expression, self-discovery and emotional growth; for these reasons, it has been used in the treatment of mental illness for almost 100 years. As a form of psychotherapy, art therapy often involves both the creation of art and the discovery of its meaning. Individuals are encouraged to visualize, and then create, the thoughts and emotions that they cannot talk about. For other people with mental illness or disabilities, the creative process of art making becomes the therapy. During the 20th century, art therapy was popular as a form of milieu therapy at psychiatric institutions and was an important influence on the development of art therapy in the United States. Milieu therapies focus on putting the patient in a therapeutic social setting that provide opportunities to develop self-confidence and interact with others in a positive way.

Some practitioners consider art expression as a way to understand the inner worlds of people with mental illness. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, studies on the characteristics of and symbolism in the artwork of the mentally ill were published. Art was viewed as a diagnostic tool to identify specific types of mental illness or traumatic events. Later, psychologists would use this diagnostic aspect to develop psychological drawing tests like "draw a person," or recognition tests such as the Rorschach Inkblot Test, the Thematic Apperception Test [TAT], and the Holtzman Inkblot Test [HIT]).

An Art Therapy Program in Action

Lucas County [Toledo, Ohio, USA] residents use art therapy methods as tools for treating mental illness. The Genesis Partial Hospitalization Program serves adults in severe psychiatric crisis. View this short, but inspiring film about art therapy and mental illness:



More Films on Art Therapy and Art and Mental Illness

Art Therapy and Mental Illness. Another excellent film on art therapy and mental illness is available through WebMD. It features former First Lady Rosalyn Carter who has spent more than three decades speaking out about the importance of early identification of mental illness and increased awareness of mental health issues in general. See this film on the WebMD site at

Outsider Art. View a studio-quality film from and learn more about "outsider art" and its relationship to creativity and health. Outsider art has been defined as the work of people with handicaps or mental illness; also known as "l' art brut," outsider art challenges you to reconsider the nature of art, creativity, and mental illness.


General Mental Illness and Mental Health Resources-- Coming Soon!



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