Art therapists – what do they do?
Published on: Monday, August 30, 2021
By: K Krishnan
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ART therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.

Art therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. 

Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.

Art therapists are master-level clinicians who work with people of all ages across a broad spectrum of practice. 

Guided by ethical standards and scope of practice, their education and supervised training prepares them for culturally proficient work with diverse populations in a variety of settings.

Honouring individuals’ values and beliefs, art therapists work with people who are challenged with medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth. 

Through integrative methods, art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone. 

Kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic opportunities invite alternative modes of receptive and expressive communication, which can circumvent the limitations of language. 

Visual and symbolic expression gives voice to experience, and empowers individual, communal, and societal transformation. 

Where do they work? 

Art therapists work with individuals, couples, families, and groups in diverse settings. Some examples include:



Veteran’s clinics

Private practice

Psychiatric and 

rehabilitation facilities

Community clinics

Crisis centres

Forensic institutions

Senior communities

Their daily task will involve:-
  • Observe and document client reactions, progress, or other outcomes related to art therapy.
  • Design art therapy sessions or programmes to meet client’s goals or objectives.
  • Conduct art therapy sessions, providing guided self-expression experiences to help clients recover from, or cope with, cognitive, emotional, or physical impairments.
  • Confer with other professionals on client’s treatment team to develop, coordinate, or integrate treatment plans.
  • Assess client needs or disorders, using drawing, painting, sculpting, or other artistic processes.

What Knowledge/Training 

do you need? 

Therapy and Counselling – Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counselling and guidance.

Psychology – Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.

Fine Arts – Knowledge of the theory and techniques required to compose, produce, and perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, and sculpture.

Sociology and Anthropology – Knowledge of group behaviour and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins..

Customer and Personal Service – Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. 

This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

What Skills do you need? 

Social Perceptiveness – Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

Active Listening – Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Speaking – Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Critical Thinking – Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgement and Decision Making – Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

For further information 

Counseling Psychology Club

Faculty of Psychology and Education

Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Jalan UMS, 

88400, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.


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