Creative Arts Therapists are mental health professionals who use art, media and the creative process (drawing, writing, sculpting, drama, clay, sand, dance and movement) to facilitate the exploration of feelings, improve self-awareness and reduce anxiety for clients. Creative processes can be a way for clients to explore and express feelings that may be hard to put into words and to find new pathways to healing. A Creative Arts Therapy session is therefore quite different to an art class or lesson.
The profession has been well established and recognised in many countries such as the UK, the USA and Europe since the 1940s. Creative Arts Therapy has been recognised and regulated around the world by organisations such as the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in the UK and the American Art Therapy Association. Creative Arts Therapists in other parts of the world who work in modalities other than the visual arts are usually recognised and regulated by separate professional bodies, such as the Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy, or the British Association of Dramatherapy. Increasingly other countries are recognising the value of regulating the various Creative Arts Therapies within one professional body such as ANZACATA.
As an emergent profession in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, the profession gained classification by the Australian and New Zealand Classification of Occupations in 2007. Since then, the profession and its diversity has grown exponentially, due in part to the increase in evidence and practice-based research in the field and the greater profile of the benefits of the arts in health.
Creative Arts Therapists use creative processes to help clients explore and express unconscious material that is often difficult to articulate in words.
These methods are innovative, participatory and practical: they provide a supportive space for participants to 'try on' and practise new behaviours, and this can be more effective than merely talking about change.
Creativity harnesses the imagination and a sense of play. This can help those who have limited choices in their life to use the safe space of the therapeutic environment and want to:
Contemporary neurobiological research into trauma suggests that trauma has a powerful physical component and thus the first step in addressing trauma should be to attend to embodied trauma responses. Because the Creative Arts Therapies are based on body awareness they can effectively address trauma and emotional and physical dysregulation. Creative Arts Therapies can increase resilience by improving the sense of agency and self-understanding through the ability to express feelings symbolically. This can give new perspectives on oneself and on one's world view, which is essential in the recovery process.
The Creative Arts Therapies can be practised with individual clients, families and groups. Group work is cost effective and also may counter loneliness and isolation; give opportunities to practise social skills and relationship building in a supportive environment; and can facilitate sense of participation, belonging and community. Creativity can connect us with a sense of meaning and also a means of communicating this to others. This approach can provide soothing and satisfying activities that can counter boredom and lack of engagement and provide the experience of safety, empowerment and the relief of symptoms of anxiety and/or depression through symbolic expression.
If you would like to locate professionally qualified Creative Arts Therapists in your region for yourself or for someone else, you will find a Creative Arts Therapist directory listing therapists by region, state and country, by specialty, by reasons for therapy, and by approaches, on this website. Please go to our 'Find a Therapist' Directory.
Last updated: 18 October 2022