Distinctive traits of the profession

Psychologists, occupational therapists and art educators may, at times, have interests and employ methods which overlap with those of art therapists.   However, in comparison to art therapists, these other professions typically apply a combination of art and psychology in a more circumscribed way.

Psychologists have long made use of art objects and art tasks for the particular purpose of assessing and evaluating their clients. Sometimes they may even borrow art therapy assessment tools. When working with younger clients, art (and play) are givens.

Still, psychologists make use of only a few of art’s therapeutic benefits. Occupational therapists tend to use art as an activity for some prescribed goal such as recreation or physical rehabilitation. Art educators use art to promote the student’s personal expression and growth. Their main focus is on teaching the use of artistic techniques and tools in order for students to master the artistic language; the aesthetic dimension is often valued and emphasized.

The art therapist’s expertise

Art therapists have been specifically trained to combine the principles and practices of both the visual arts and psychology into a single, coherent, interdisciplinary approach. With their skilled knowledge of art materials, creative process, psychological theories and psychotherapeutic techniques, art therapists encourage creative expression, reflexive contemplation and the working through of personal challenges and problems. In comparison to other professionals, art therapists have a much deeper and broader understanding of the rich interplay between art and psychotherapy. They are experienced in simultaneously addressing both the psychological and artistic needs presented by various situations and populations making for a unique professional expertise.

© 2015 Quebec's Art Therapy Association - AATQ
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