Client-centered art therapy is the combination of art psychotherapy and Rogerian psychotherapy. Client-centered art therapy builds on the foundation and fundamental theory of Carl Rogers’s client-centered therapy and further integrates the creative therapeutic properties of art therapy. This can provide individuals with the treatment necessary to gain awareness and insight into how their thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors may have a negative impact on their lives. This can help to provide reparation.
As mentioned in Cathy A. Malchiodi’s book, The Art Therapy Sourcebook, art therapy can be defined separately into two categories. Firstly, art therapy can be described as a creative art process with an innate healing power. This is the belief that the art making itself is therapeutic. It can be an opportunity for one to express themselves authentically, which could lead to fulfillment, repair, and transformation. It’s the belief that the art process itself is health enhancing.
The second category in which art therapy could be defined is the belief that one’s art holds symbolic meaning. This psychotherapeutic approach empathizes an individual’s art as a means for communication into ones emotions, conflicts and ailments. Though art therapy can be defined into these two categories, it is common for art therapists to practice and integrate both art as therapy and art psychotherapy.
What makes art therapy a universal therapeutic tool is its ability to transcend social, cultural and religious boundaries. Art therapy provides a secure space for individuals to explore and feel at ease within a non-judgmental space where no skills or artistic ability are necessary to engage. This fits perfectly into Rogers’s three core attitudes: empathy, acceptance, and genuineness, which he believed were necessary for therapeutic change within his client-centered approach.
The purpose of art therapy is not necessarily to depict life but rather to create something that can help bring awareness of oneself. This ties into Rogers’s theory that though the therapist plays a role in the therapeutic process, it is the client who must become aware and come to terms with what it is they need in order to make that change.
The client-centered art therapy process welcomes unexpressed emotional states and or dormant thoughts and emotions to surface in a non-threatening and non-confrontational way. The art acts as a vehicle in which an individual can arrive at an understanding or insight about past or present without saying a word. Both practices can produce relaxed states where defenses decrease. Through individual process, the combination of client-centered therapy and art therapy may allow an individual to reach a quiet and reflective state. Through a client-centered approach with the assistance of a trained art therapist, an individual could learn about him or herself and gain insight into their personal recovery through a parallel therapeutic process.
"When words are not enough, we turn to images and symbols to tell our stories. And in telling our stories through art, we find pathways to wellness, recovery and transformation.
Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art materials, such as paints, drawing, clay, collage and even digital media such as photography and tablet technology. Art therapy combines traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with psychological, interpersonal and somatic aspects of the creative process and self-expression. In mental health, art therapy is used in many clinical settings with diverse populations including children, adults, and families. As a part of integrative health care, art therapy and expressive arts therapy (art, music, drama, movement, and writing) complement and support traditional and complementary health practices and interventions.
Art has the potential to transform lives and often in profound ways; research is demonstrating that art improves not only our quality of life, but also is effective in reducing pain, fatigue and stress and increasing cognitive abilities and emotional well-being."
~ Cathy A. Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LCAT, ATR-BC