What Is Art Therapy, And How Does It Differ From Art As Therapy?

Many people are familiar with the idea of art therapy, but not everyone knows what it is or how it differs from art as therapy. In short, art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art-making to help people explore their emotions, improve their mental well-being, and cope with stressors in their lives. Art therapists are trained professionals who work with individuals, families, groups, and communities to promote mental health and well-being. 

On the other hand, art as therapy is a generic term that encompasses any use of art for therapeutic purposes. This could mean making art on your own or in a group setting to explore your emotions or relieve stress, attending an art class to boost your mood or reduce anxiety, or even simply looking at artwork that you find inspiring or calming. While art as therapy does have some benefits, it is not the same as art therapy. 

How Does Art Therapy Differ from Art As Therapy?

The main difference between art as therapy vs. art therapy is that art therapy has a therapeutic goal in mind. With art as therapy, the goal is simply to use the art for therapeutic purposes. In addition, art therapists often have specific training in counseling and psychology, whereas artists who use their artwork for therapeutic purposes may not have any formal training.

The Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy has a wide range of benefits for both children and adults. Some of the most well-established benefits of art therapy include: 

  • Reducing stress and anxiety: Art-making can be a calming and therapeutic activity that helps lower cortisol levels and promote relaxation. 
  •  Improving cognitive functioning: The act of making art can help improve focus and concentration, problem-solving skills, and memory recall. 
  • Expressing emotions safely: For some people, it can be difficult to express emotions verbally. Art therapy provides a safe outlet for exploring and expressing emotions through creative self-expression. 
  • Increasing self-esteem and confidence: The process of creating something unique and beautiful can help boost self-confidence and self-esteem. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment and pride. 
  • Improving physical health: Art therapy has been shown to improve symptoms of a wide variety of physical health conditions, including chronic pain, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. 
  • Building social skills: Working with others in an art therapy group can help build communication and social skills. 


Whether you are dealing with stress, anxiety, grief, or any other emotional issue, art therapy may be beneficial for you. If you are interested in trying art therapy, consider working with a qualified professional who can tailor the experience to your specific needs and goals. And if you’re not ready for art therapy just yet, that’s OK, too—simply absorbing beauty through works of art can also be therapeutic. No matter what form it takes, incorporating art into your life has the potential to improve your mental health and well-being.

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