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Art therapy
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Activity therapy, art dialogues, art stimulation, CAI, clay modeling, CMGT, computer projective drawing, creative arts intervention, creative expression, cross-modality grief therapy, drama therapy, free drawing, integrative behavior, music therapy, paraverbal therapy, play therapy, poetry therapy, rehabilitation psychiatry, visual art dialogues, visual distraction, visual stimulation.
  • Not included in this review: Activity therapy, color therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, play therapy.

Background

  • Art therapy became established as a mental health profession in the 1930s and is now practiced in hospitals, clinics, public and community agencies, wellness centers, educational institutions, businesses, and private practices. It involves the application of a variety of art modalities including drawing, painting, clay, and sculpture.
  • Art therapy enables the expression of inner thoughts or feelings when verbalization is difficult or not possible. The aesthetic aspect of the creation of art is thought to lift one's mood, boost self-awareness, and improve self-esteem. Art therapy also allows the opportunity to exercise the eyes and hands, improve eye-hand coordination, and stimulate neurological pathways from the brain to the hands.
  • Art therapy is commonly used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems; substance abuse and addictions; family and relationship issues; abuse and domestic violence; and coping with disability or medical illness.
  • Art therapy may aid in stress reduction and relaxation.
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Theory

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Evidence

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Safety

Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.