Art therapy

The Art therapy method

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy


which uses artistic creation (drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, etc.) to establish contact with a person’s inner self, give expression to it and transform the person. Without being concerned about the quality or appearance of the final work, therapeutic approach consists of allowing internal images to be expressed progressively, which could be as much a reflection of the person’s past experiences, as dreams to which he aspires. Creative action uses the body which starts moving to create a concrete piece of work; in the same spirit, it makes an appeal to imagination, intuition, thought, and emotions. The forms or images thus created, apart from revealing certain aspects of the self, can generate vision and new behavior patterns which contribute to physical, emotional or spiritual health recovery.

I consider that Art therapy can move beyond the framework of psychotherapy and have larger humanitarian and therapeutic goals. It can help sick persons, persons who are handicapped or are victims of chronic pain and those who have motor problems. Application of art to achieve therapeutic goals is not a new concept. Ancient Greece, like most traditional cultures considered that art had a cathartic and therapeutic effect. At the beginning of the 20th century, Swiss psychiatrist Carl G Jung (1875-1961) had already experimented with the benefits of expression through drawings; he went on thereafter to integrate this approach in his practice. Nevertheless, art therapy did not make its official entry into our contemporary society until the 1930s. It was first introduced in England and the United States by Margaret Naumburg, renowned professor and psychotherapist, considered as one of the pioneers in the field. It is also interesting to draw a parallel between art therapy and outsider art (or raw art), a movement launched in 1945 by French painter Jean Dubuffet, due to the similarity of the creative process which essentially aims at bringing out personal and spontaneous expression.

Among therapists who contributed to the integration of art into the framework of psychiatric treatment in Canada, mention should be made of Martin A Fisher who founded the Toronto Art Therapy Institute in 1967 and the Canadian Art Therapy Association in 1977. In Quebec, the first introductory course to art therapy was initiated in 1979 and since 1982, a university master’s program has been in place for this technique. In France, despite training programs being on offer since the 70s, art therapy is not yet widespread. England is the first European country where the profession was recognized by the Public Health Services in 1997. In Germany, insurances cover the cost of care in some cases, while in most other European countries, the work of professional recognition is yet to be accomplished.

Therapeutic application of art therapy

Generally, art therapy is for anyone wishing to participate in a process aimed at personal growth. The approach is similar to psychotherapy or classical psychological counseling with two important differences. First, the emphasis is on a mode of expression other than spoken language. Then, in addition to allowing insights, it can itself be a source of liberation, an indicator or an internal catalyst of the transformation process. Finally, it is a dynamic approach that fosters the awakening of creative potential, self affirmation and often leads to a feeling of well-being, autonomy and liberty.


Art therapy is a widespread practice in the health sector. I use it as a means of intervention in psychotherapy, particularly for subjects who have difficulty in verbally expressing what they feel, for young children and also in physiotherapy to develop better self confidence and promote rehabilitation. The approach can be an efficient accompanying tool to help resolve a large number of problems like learning difficulties, significant trauma behavior, adaptation difficulties, dependence problems, suicidal tendencies, personal or work related conflicts, etc. The approach can also be an efficient accompanying tool to induce empathy in health care professionals and foster better communication with their own personal question. The therapist can show the patient the road he has taken by exposing the collection of his work. The role of the therapist is not to interpret the creative work, but to support the subject in his transformation and accompany him from one artistic production to another till he achieves clarity. The duration of therapy can vary and it is possible that it might take only a few sessions to identify the problem. On the other hand, therapy can also extend over many meetings and sessions. However great an artist you are, it is not possible to improvise the psychotherapist! I have worked with over 7000 school children with my association “Tiens bon à tes rêves” approved by National Education. I work with them through writing, music, painting and theatre. My educational book “A tes rêves” is the reflection of this work of creativity and psychological development.

Art Therapy Project Proposal

Valerie Grumelin Halimi, Psychologist and Art therapist, Paris, France.

Project Description:
A unique cultural project connecting artistic actions with audience interactions. To help establish a bridge between the artist and audience, through the discovery of the artistic work and the emotions felt. Some individuals are visual and can only express their emotions by visual perception, some are auditory and express their emotions by internalizing the sounds they have heard and others are kinesthetic and express their emotions through their tactile senses.

Valerie will work to connect the audience visually, sensorial and emotionally to the work. Class participants will expresses their art by projecting emotions through their chosen art medium; other class participants must then feel and appreciate the work in their own way.

The end of the workshop will include a discussion on both the instructor’s art and the class participants. Through communication, both on an educational, technical and emotional level enables every individual to feel free from the constraints of an all-absorbing intimacy, finding a gateway to happiness through self-expression.

Workshop Overview:
The Art Therapist will be the guide and conductor of the workshop, encouraging and guiding creative expression.

While listening to music, the class participants will share their artistic appreciation with each of the participants for purposes both didactical and technical. Class participants will be encouraged to write what inspires them about the contemplation of the work, and describe what is felt through their visual, auditory or kinesthetic senses.

Once the story is written about the emotional connection, it is time to pick up the brushes! All art supplies will be available for each class participant, canvasses will be available to use brush, felt and other mediums to express artistic emotions.
Once the artistic expressions are placed on the canvas, each participant will have an opportunity to describe the emotions represented through their artwork.
Workshop Duration:
3 hours; 2 hours of creativity, 1 hour of discussing the work as a group.

Workshop Cost: $150 per person for 3 hours (All art mediums used in the workshop will be supplied)
Benefits for the workshop participant: Art therapy can be beneficial to people of all ages, but it is especially useful for children and adolescents. Art is a natural form of communication for children because it is easier for them to express themselves visually rather than verbally. Art making has also been shown to enhance cognitive abilities, improve social skills, and encourage self-esteem in school-age children.