Art Therapy: A Definition

This weekend at the Celtic Fest in Jackson,  was an extraordinary weekend.  I met so many fascinating and artistic people. One of the many interesting people I met was Dianne Stefanick, an intelligent and beautiful volunteer worker for the festival.  She is also an art therapist with a very impressive resume.  I’ve long believed in the healing, redemptive, and creative power of art, and talking to her helped solidify my beliefs about that. What follows is an article she gave me defining art therapy.


Art Therapy is the therapeutic use of art making. within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development.  Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasure of making art

Art Therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy.  They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practices, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art.  They use art in treatment, assessment, and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals.  Art therapist works with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities.   They provide services, individually and as a part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions: community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; open studios and independent practices.

The American Art Therapy Association, Inc. (ATTA) sets educational, professional, and ethical standards for its members.  The Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. (ATCB), an independent organization, grants credentials.  Registration ( ATR) is granted upon completion of graduate education and post-graduate supervised experience.  Board Certification (ATR-BC) is granted to Registered Art Therapist who passes a written examination, and is maintained through continuing education.  Some states regulate the practice of art therapy and in many states art therapist can become licensed as counselors or mental health therapists.