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Art Class Vs. Art Therapy

Art Class Vs. Art Therapy

Before we start an art therapy session, we usually inform the clients of the difference between art class and art therapy. This is so they will know what they would be expect in an art therapy session and enhance their art therapy experience.

The chart below provides and overview of the elements of an art class and an art therapy session.

Art ClassArt Therapy
Main Goal: To Learn to Make SomethingMain Goal: Self Expression
Art Supplies: Used in specific ways to accomplish the taskArt Supplies: Used as tools for self expression
There is a certain recommended techniques or a right way to do things.There is no right or wrong way to make things or use the art materials.
The focus is on the final product.The focus is on the creative art making process
Artwork is evaluated for its formal qualities based on the elements and principles of design. Artwork is seen as a reflection or extension of its creator. It is used as a form of communication.

There are benefits to both, art class and art therapy session, of which each achieves very different objectives. For an art class, one learns about art and art making techniques. For art therapy, one discovers more about oneself. In an art therapy session, the client can ask the therapist on art making techniques, where learning these techniques provides a certain sense of mastery and provides the adequate tools for self expression. The difference in this circumstance is that there is no final grade or mark on how well this art technique has been learnt.

While most will find art-making to be therapeutic and have therapeutic benefits, this is not defined as art therapy unless an art therapist is present. This can be called art as therapy and not art therapy. Art therapy works on a triangular relationship between the art therapist, client and art-making. The certified and professional art therapist creates a safe space for the client to explore, guiding and emotionally holding the client where needed. There be some who would like to regard their art classes as art therapy, claiming the therapeutic benefits obtained from the art-making process as art therapy, simply because it sounds good or helps to boost their marketing or appeal for their classes.

Regardless of the reasons, these art classes cannot be regarded as art therapy and it is important to discern and know the difference.