Art Therapy: What is Art Therapy?

This article discusses art therapy. But what is Art therapy? Can art therapy be a form of treatment? How does art therapy become effective? How is art therapy helpful? Can art therapy classes or art programs help various conditions? Let us learn more about art therapy.

Yes, apparently art therapy does work. Art therapy is a form of therapy that I learned about in my college days. Art therapy helped me get through those rigorous weeks and gave me something to wake up for. Without art therapy, I may have given up on my career. Art therapy helps in coping with a lot of mental and emotional stress. Not too surprisingly, art therapy turns out to be ideal for ADHD patients, too. 

art therapy for kids


Even simple tasks as simple as putting on an outfit or listening to class can be a little bit frustrating for people experiencing ADHD. To cope, therapies became a part of the treatment plan. One type of treatment people with ADHD engage in is Art Therapy.

Therapy 101: Art Therapy Discussion

What’s Art Therapy?

Art therapy uses the approach of sculpting, painting, and drawing as a way to improve the well-being of those with ADHD. Art therapy is usually used in children. The concept behind art therapy is self-expression and can be a tool to help solve complicated emotional problems, reduce stress, improve social skills, and manage behavior properly. Art therapy is healing because it forces you to form a connection between your mind and your body. An individual does not need to be a professional artist to use art therapy.

“In art therapy, the focus is on the process of creating and, to a lesser extent, on the final product,” says Kathryn Rudlin, LCSW.  “Creating is the primary initial focus, increased self-understanding usually comes later.”

art therapy

Why Art Therapy?

British artist Adrian Hill created the term art therapy in 1942 while recovering from tuberculosis in a sanatorium.  He wrote that the value of art therapy lay in “completely engrossing the mind (as well as the fingers)…releasing the creative energy of the frequently inhibited patient”. That began his art therapy work, which was documented in 1945 in his book, Art Versus Illness. Hill worked tirelessly to promote this therapy, He eventually became president of the British Association of Art Therapists, founded in 1964, and in 1968 Hill was elected president of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.

Does Art Therapy Work?

There is science in art therapy, and neuroscience allowed experts to understand the process of art therapy. Each time an individual places a brush on a paper, he or she is already engaging in decision-making and problem-solving. This action stimulates neuropathways which activate various parts of the brain. He is utilizing art therapy.

art therapy

Other things which trigger the neuropathways are kinesthetics and sensory experiences. Actions like touch, movement, sound, and visuals fall under this category. For example, working with wet clay enables an individual to use intensive motor skills. It awakens all the senses and releases tension.

A typical art therapy usually involves several combinations of structured projects. This therapy program helps the child develop different skills, work through emotions, and resolve inner conflicts.

“Eighty percent of sensory stimuli enter through our eyes and goes into our brains where it is retained visually, nonverbally. Most of us think, feel, and recall memories not in words but in imagery. These images become a verbal language when we attempt to communicate what is going on in our mind to someone else,” shares Marianne Gontarz, MSW, LCSW.

Art Therapy Activities

Art therapy activities are simple. However, those who will spearhead these projects should make sure that the emotions will be touched when implementing these art therapy activities.

art therapy


  • Scribbles

Scribbles a popular technique in art therapy enable a child to release stress and pour down emotions in a balanced manner. It starts by folding a paper in half. The patient is then tasked to scribble on one side of the paper using his dominant hand. Afterward, he or she must then scribble on the other side while using the non-dominant hand.

“Similar to dream interpretation, there is no secret formula to reading another person’s art. You have to ask the person questions about their drawing in order to be able to figure out what a picture means,” explains Drena Fagen, LCSW, LCAT, ATR-BC.

  • Worries

Parents might sometimes wonder what a child’s problems are. Art therapy helps address that. At the start of this therapy, the patient will be asked to write down a problem he or she is currently facing. This can be done in words (through poems) or drawing (through abstract art). After making it, he or she will then be asked to tear the paper using both hands. Parents, afterward, are required to talk about the artwork by giving them pieces of advice on how to solve their worries.

art therapy
  • Mandalas

A mandala is an artwork comprised of a circle with a pattern sitting in the middle. Some art therapy sessions start by asking patients to create their mandala. This art therapy technique helps promote focus and release a calm energy.

  • Coloring Sheet

Another art therapy technique to release stress is creating art coloring sheets. Using a black marker, a patient is asked to draw a scribble while they close their eyes. Afterward, he/she must color every section of the scribble with different colors.

Art Therapy: Therapy Reminders And Takeaways

Individuals with ADHD may really have difficulty expressing themselves. Using art therapy only proves that for someone with this disability, a picture may indeed be worth more than a thousand words.