A Day in the Life of an Art Therapist

December 2013

For those that are wondering, the usual day of work for an art therapist, can vary depending on what issues present, during a session.

A suicidal, socially anxious teenager may need to express some emotional tension, to feel grounded and connected, or just want to show their internal pain through their art making.

A shy reserved junior school student may need to build their self confidence through affirmation, identifying their strengths, and increasing their social skills. They might use art therapy to map out fears, and create an image to show that.

A young mum may present unsure if shes doing the right things, she may feel overwhelmed, stressed, tired and generally low. She might create an image about idealistic versus realistic tasks she can do as a new mum.

A colleague may come into the art therapy space stressed and worried, suffering secondary trauma after hearing a sad, bad or mad story. She may sit in front of a sand tray just feeling the texture of the sand slip through her fingers. She might pick up a few symbols to place in the sand, working through scenarios in her head. When shes ready she might talk about her creation, and find solutions to problems.

An angry young man might enter the room hyperactive, non compliant and generally unfocused. He may seek out the clay, squeezing it and stretching its texture. He may bash the clay, squish it into the clay table and refuse to engage, until he settles and can then verbalise his problems.

Or perhaps the next person to walk into the art therapy space feels great, they have goals, are coping pretty well with general life stresses, and just want to create art because it feels so damn good. Its the only time they allow themselves to process their thoughts, to clarify their next steps, and mostly because they like using the art materials.

If the art therapy room walls could talk, what would they say?

Perhaps that Art Therapy provides a safe place to express yourself when words cant, that the therapist doesn’t expect you to talk if you don’t want to, and that their are no judgements or assumptions when making art.

As both a “talk therapist” aka Psychologist, and an Art Therapist i can move between both worlds pretty seamlessly these days. Gone are the graduate days when I thought everything belonged under labels or in compartments, these day “one size does not fit all”, and thats ok.

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