Art therapy falls on a spectrum between art as therapy and art psychotherapy. There are benefits to each, but more than often the work we do falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. There is often a blurry line between the two because art is inherently an expression of self and serves to communicate a feeling or message. It is a language that everyone has within them and everyone is able to relate to because of “its inherent ability to help people of all ages explore emotions and beliefs, reduce stress, resolve problems and conflicts, and enhance their sense of well-being (Malchiodi, 2012, p. viii). Art therapy activates both the right and left side of the brain. This results in a more integrated understanding of a person’s artwork. The right side is being used when a person is creating art work and the left side is used as the person speaks to and or contemplates the meaning of their art work. Art can benefit those who are unable to communicate verbally as it is its own form of communication. Art therapy is also helpful because a person can access feelings and memories than aren’t verbal. A person may not have words to describe how they are feeling, but they are still able to express how they feel through the creation of art. From there, with the help of an art therapist a person can discover what their psyche is trying to work out and express.
“There are many different approaches to art therapy. In general art therapy involves the use of art and other visual media in a therapeutic or treatment setting” (Carpendale, 2009, p.3). Art as therapy focuses on the inherent healing quality of creating artwork, cathartic release and art as a form of self-expression whereas art psychotherapy uses the art to bring up unconscious material to consciousness through dialogue and associations (Carpendale, 2009).