By Dana Costantino
Art therapy is a form of therapy in which creative expression is used to foster mental well-being and promote healing. There is a belief that an artist of some kind lives within all of us, and working to tap into that in a nurturing and safe setting is increasingly becoming a desired form of mental health treatment in addition to the traditional options of talk therapy or psychotropic medications. So many of us already take ourselves to a museum or an art gallery when we need that pick-me-up. We may even look to beginning an art project of some kind, or find ourselves drawing or painting therapeutically and not even realize that is what we are doing. In my own life I have been drawn to art therapy. Diving into creating art can be a profoundly healing way to help many people meet the challenges of living in the world of social media, cancel culture, and rather unsure times, and quite possibly lead some to recognize and understand an inner artistic being that they hadn’t previously known was living within themselves.
As we celebrate Pride Month, we also honor and show great respect for the many artists and dreamers within the LGBTQ+ community that continue to heal us with their art and creative expression.
For this month’s Health and Wellness column, I had the great joy of speaking with art therapist AnnCharlotte Tavolacci. We dived deeper into what it means to be an art therapist, what credentials are required, and what one can expect to experience in art therapy. AnnCharlotte is a successful fine artist in her own right, and has chosen to combine her artistic talents with her passion for helping others. We can all agree that art heals.
Q—Is there a specific form of art that is best to use in art therapy, or can any medium be used in the treatment?
A—That is dependent on the population and the setting. Every art medium can find its way into general art therapy practices, but there are specifics the creative therapist is trained to consider. For example, if you are working with a child with autism or sensory issues, you may try to use materials that are less sensory-triggering, such as very wet clay, whereas when working with the blind population, rice and other tangible materials are used in paint to create a more tactile experience when painting.
Q—What schooling is involved with obtaining the necessary credentials to be certified to perform art therapy?
A—MA, ATR-BC, LCAT. I’ll try my best to break this down: in New York State a minimum of a master’s degree in clinical psychology or doctoral degree that combines special coursework in art and psychology is required to become a licensed creative arts therapist (LCAT). This includes 1,500 hours of supervised site work at an approved setting, and passing a board exam. It varies from state to state within the U.S. but the AATA or American Art Therapy Association has a handful of accredited schooling programs to obtain the proper board-certified and creative art therapy license (ATR-BC).
Q—Do you have to be skilled in an art form to benefit from art therapy?
A—Not at all! I believe art therapy can benefit any individual at any level of artistic ability. The most typical form of art therapy is a successful intervention using the visual modality. Almost every individual experiences some type of misfortune in their lifetime. Anyone willing to try to create may benefit from art therapy.
If you are interested in learning more about using art therapy as a form of healing for your personal growth and evolution, you can contact AnnCharlotte Tavolacci at firstname.lastname@example.org (email) or @anncharlottedotcom (Instagram).