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What to expect when you start art therapy

Where will I meet the art therapist?

You will meet in a private room where you won’t be interrupted, such as an art room or a meeting room.  Alternatively, you may meet your art therapist in an online meeting room, using software like Zoom. 

Art Therapy FAQ

Who will be there?

Depending on your needs, you will either join group therapy or individual therapy. 

  • In group therapy, you will be with the art therapist and a small group of participants. 

  • In individual therapy, it will just be you and the art therapist.

  • For young people, sometimes having a trusted adult with you for the first session or two can help until you feel ready to attend as an individual.

Do I have to be good at art?

No, you do not need to have any previous experience or expertise in art. Art therapy isn’t a recreational activity or an art lesson, although the sessions can be enjoyable. 

What will we do in an art therapy session?

You will make art and talk (which may be done at the same time) or you can make art in silence if that’s your preference. When making art, you can choose materials that best suit you e.g., paint, pastel or clay, or you might make a collage. 

The art therapist may sit quietly and pay attention whilst you make art or they may make art alongside you, depending on your needs during each session. You and the art therapist will also talk and think together to make sense of the thoughts, feelings and experiences that come up during your art-making or when you look at your artwork. 

Potential Risks

Art Therapy, like any form of therapy, has the potential to do harm. 

Individuals are unique which means different approaches may work for different people during different times of their life. What may have worked before may not work now and what didn't work before may be a better fit now. 

Potential negative effects include:

  • Higher levels of stress or anxiety

  • Surfacing emotions without effectively processing them

  • Difficulty coping if therapy is abruptly terminated

  • Sometimes individuals report feeling worse before they feel better

 

If art therapy is ineffective, it could mean that the individual's needs were not fully addressed. This often increases distress and may even make individuals reluctant to try alternative forms of therapy.

 

Many clients are reluctant to explore art therapy because they think that they have to have an artistic talent for it to work, see it as "arts and crafts" rather than an effective tool, or are otherwise unconvinced that it can help them. This has the potential to limit the effectiveness of art therapy.

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