Client's Guide to Art Therapy Part I: What to Expect in a Session

Art Therapy is an experiential form of therapy, where clients make art during the sessions.

A typical art-based session follows the following general format:

  1. We discuss what you would like to work on/address during therapy.

  2. We shift the focus from talking to making art. Depending on your comfort level, I can guide you a little bit during this part. You might just end up playing around with a few supplies or you might end up making a finished piece of art.

    • There is no right or wrong way to make art in art therapy. There is no special training needed to be an art therapy client; in fact, sometimes clients with little to no prior art-making experience have an easier time with art therapy than those with an art background.

    • I do not tell you what to make or how you “should” or “shouldn’t” use the art supplies during the session; however, I can definitely get you started with some simple warm-ups to help you feel more comfortable with the process.

    • It is normal to feel a little lost or nervous at the start. People often comment that making art reminds them of being in school and say that they are not “good at” art. Well, then this is the place for you! Because art therapy has nothing to do with being “good at” art.

  3. Typically, in the last part of an art therapy session, the artwork is “processed” (aka discussed or interacted with somehow).

    • As a trained, registered art therapist, I have specialized knowledge and skills when it comes to helping you process your work, and can help you gain insight and a deeper understanding of yourself through the art that you make. Often, the art speaks for itself. I do not interpret your artwork for you (instead, I help you explore what the work means to you). And I never, never judge what you make.

    • We may process the work through reflective questions/discussion, writing, sound, movement or mindfulness, among other methods.

    • The art you make during the session is for you and you alone. You get to decide what to do with it. I do not share your art work with anyone, nor do I request you to share your art with anyone else. The artwork belongs to you (however, I can store it for you if you would like). Some clients choose to keep their art for a season, to place it in a personal spot for themselves in their home, or to keep it stored away for the time being.

Do you have more questions about Art Therapy? Coming soon: “A Client’s Guide to Art Therapy Part II: How Does Art Therapy Work?”

Cora McLachlan