Month: January 2016

Art Therapy at Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre

Art Therapy at Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre

Art therapy gives children, young people and adults an opportunity to use art materials to explore the world around them and start expressing and making sense of thoughts and feelings which may be difficult to talk about. You don’t need any previous experience of making art and you don’t need to be good at art to benefit from art therapy!

Children and Young People

Children and young people can sometimes feel under a lot of pressure. They might be dealing with changes or concerns (in relation to home, school, family, friends, developing identity, growing up and so on) which leave them feeling confused, stressed, sad, anxious and sometimes depressed. Early intervention to support and improve a child’s mental health and wellbeing is essential. Art therapy offers a safe space to start exploring and understanding what’s going on – how a young person is feeling and where aspects of their day to day life might be causing them difficulties.

“Using materials like clay, ink, paint, charcoal and recycled objects to create something or just to doodle and play can help a child or young person get in touch with how they are feeling. Sometimes it’s easier to make something that connects with what you’re feeling inside rather than find the words to talk about it. The image or object can open up a space to start to understand”. Saskia (Art Therapist at BHWC).

Art therapy is particularly helpful when children and young people may struggle to find the words to express how they feel. Being part of an art therapy group can help develop confidence and the ability to trust others as children and young people begin to notice and value their own feelings and experiences alongside their peers.


Adults can access one to one art therapy sessions with a referral from their GP. If you have concerns about your mental health and experience anxiety, distress, depression – art therapy can help.

Art Therapy Benefits

Creative absorption in art making – the process of becoming even for a moment lost in or preoccupied with the creative process of making and using materials can help develop a stronger sense of self.

Sense of agency and choice – individuals make artistic choices about materials, where to place a mark on a page, the subject matter of their work and so on. This can help develop a sense of control and agency, and a sense of self from which these choices emerge. Putting a young person in touch with their inner world supports them to think and feel for themselves in their own individual way.

Art therapy and art activities – both are valid processes in their own right with different emphases. Art therapy is the exploration of a personal issue or situation using art materials, along the way artworks of great merit may be produced (but this is not the main focus).

Telling a story through art – change can occur when a young person is able to direct their feelings into making art which can be shared with the therapist and others in a group. They can tell their story through the art.

Self discovery – the act of creating art triggers a sense of relief and well-being through the recognition and acknowledgement of subconscious feelings. It may also help us discover abilities we did not known we had.

Personal fulfilment – the creation itself is a tangible reward that can build confidence and nurture feelings of self worth and personal fulfilment.

Empowerment – individuals express emotions and fears that they were unable able to convey through conventional means giving them a sense of control over these feelings.

Physical rehabilitation and symptom relief – the act of creating art helps individuals cope with pain. It helps promote physiological healing by helping to identify and work through anger and resentment issues as well as other emotional stresses. It can also help ease fears caused from disease and chronic illness.

Overall, art therapy helps progress us from unconscious distress to a conscious level where we can begin to heal and move in the direction of a more fulfilled and improved quality of life.

Feedback from participants and parents about how art therapy has helped:

“I do feel the group has had a great impact. His anger is so much more controlled now and he has enjoyed the group”

“He was very anxious before he joined. Since he has been attending he seems happier and more content”

“Safety, belonging, interaction. Trying art and exploring art”

“It offers a safe, happy, fun space for children to express their feelings that are out of control and without the pressure to keep up their roles within the family”

“I have been able to keep calm and not snap and burst as I know I will have time to talk about it in the group”

“Made me feel not alone and there are people who are feeling the same as me”

“I was able to keep my anxiety under control”

“I get angry a lot less often”

“I feel a lot more relaxed/ calm, not feeling as confused”

Art therapists are bound by law to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) To find out more about art therapy have a look at the British Association of Art Therapy (BAAT)

Further reading:

Art therapy for Children: How it Leads to Change, Professor Diane Waller, Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2006 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi) Vol 11(2): 271–282. Handbook of Art Therapy, Cathy A. Malchiodi PhD ATR-BC LPCC (Editor), 2011, Guildford Press.