This month an exhibition called Art + Healing will open at University College Hospital, cialis London (19 April – 5 June). It will show the works of organisations and individuals who value art therapy: Combat Stress, Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, London Art Therapy Centre, as well as the work of artists,  art therapists and their clients.

As a young doctor exploring whole person medicine, I’d heard of Art Therapy but carelessly put it in the same rubric as basket weaving and other ‘occupational activities’ to help psychologically disturbed people. Being married to an art psychotherapist has shown me how naïve and utterly incorrect that presumption was. I was surprised to hear that art therapists comprise – after doctors – the most qualified group of clinicians in the NHS. Art Therapy is a post-graduate training and art therapists have undergone formal education in both art and psychotherapy.

In the ‘talking therapies’ (ie most forms of psychotherapy) words are the main medium by which a client expresses feelings. In Art Therapy, a therapeutic conversation also takes place, but crucially the client is invited to use art materials to create images. What is expressed in this process of image making often transcends words. Using language in daily life can make us over-familiar with the medium of words allowing us to be unhelpfully guarded in expressing feelings. The less familiar media of paper, paint, crayons, sand and sculpture tends to lead to moving expressions and authentic insights that can surprise both art therapist and client.

An effective art therapist needs to be a good talking therapist of course, but the use of image making adds tremendous dynamism to both the therapeutic process and the relationship between therapist and client.

Art Therapy can be experienced one-to-one or in groups and you get to take your paintings home with you. No artistic talent is required and the whole therapeutic process is creative, energising and fun.

The forthcoming exhibition at University College Hospital and London Art Therapy Centre will introduce you to artworks which resulted in profound benefits for their creators, leaving no doubt as to the efficacy of Art Therapy.

Art therapy is a regulated profession and more information can be found here:

Art + Healing exhibition

London Art Therapy Centre

British Association of Art Therapists