There are many reasons you may choose to come to individual art therapy sessions. In most cases though, you are likely to be seeking to change or improve some aspect of your life or manage an unexpected event that has caused emotional disruption. It may be that you are grieving the loss of someone close, or perhaps you’ve been feeling depressed or anxious for a while without knowing why. You may be struggling to cope with a relationship breakdown, loss of a job or a diagnosis of a chronic disease. Or, you may simply be looking to find ways of improving your self esteem so that you can life your ‘best life’.
Art therapy activities can help to unlock the unconscious seeds of thought you already hold within you that will ultimately lead to change and long term healing. This is a different approach to straightforward counselling or psychotherapy mainly because the creative process is used as a helpful tool to ‘make the unconscious conscious’.
‘But how does that happen?’ I hear you ask…. Well, you can read more about left and right brain functioning on the art therapy info page to understand how art works as a psychotherapeutic tool.
Life often throws us some unexpected curveballs. In these times it can be difficult to know how to move past an event or emotion caused by these surprise obstacles. Most often our behavioural patterns, problem solving strategies and coping mechanisms are laid down like train tracks in our unconscious minds when we are young. At times these patterns, strategies and management styles fail us, signifying that conscious change is needed. Art therapy can help you find the tools within yourself to change your life for the better. The artwork is just a means of helping you discover how to use them.
During the first session, we will get to know each other. We will also have an in depth discussion about your reasons for coming to art therapy and what you would like to improve or change in your life. We will also cover policies, and complete the standard intake paperwork
Questions are always welcome as there are usually many. Depending on your situation, we would usually begin using art materials in the first session as a way for us to become familiar with each other. Sometimes we might ease into art-making more gradually but you can expect that art-making will take up a substantial part of your sessions.
At the beginning of the session your therapist will typically begin with ‘checking in’ to see what’s been happening for you. Then you will be given an art task to represent and explore the immediate issues of concern you would like to focus on in therapy.
It’s important for you to know that your therapist will never judge or interpret your artwork. Only you can explain what your art is about. This is not an exercise in psychoanalysis where the therapist is ‘the expert’. You are the only expert of your life. The therapist’s role is simply to use his or her skills to help facilitate your journey of discovery through the materials and artworks that are created in sessions.
After the first art piece is done, you will have a discussion about what the process was like for you as well as looking at the artwork in different ways. Often the therapist will turn your artwork sideways or upside down and ask you to say what you see. Its a little bit like looking up at a sky full of puffy white clouds and looking for shapes or images that appear. It can be quite surprising to discover the multiple images and symbols within your artwork that you didn’t intend to put there.
More often than not, themes will start to emerge as you examine your artwork and symbols that are relevant to you become obvious. As the stories about the artwork develop, so too will the metaphors that describe what you see. It could be that you repeatedly see symbols in your artwork that relate to ‘new life’ such as an egg, a cradle or a child’s rattle while your reason for coming to therapy might be that you are depressed about infertility. The metaphors will often have deep resonance with your problem. As you explore and discuss the artwork, these metaphors allow a new narrative about the issue of concern to emerge, helping you to make new connections and discoveries about the real nature of the issue and how you might go about approaching or resolving it.
Sometimes you may be asked to engage in more involved projects such as mask-making or mosaic which may take several sessions to complete.
We use a range of materials and art exercises, including traditional art materials, craft supplies, objects from nature and found or recycled objects. Often a particular set of mediums will have what we call ‘resonance’ with your issue of concern. Every art therapy session is different and your therapist has special skills in being able to select a range of mediums and activities specifically for you.
Sometimes the materials selected by the therapist can be employed to challenge your thoughts or ideas but this all depends on the type of issue you are working on and how far you have come in the process of therapy.
There are many different modalities that may be used in a session including:
That all depends on you. Sometimes people gain all the insight they need in just one session, however we don’t really have a chance to delve deep into the issue.
The recommended minimum amount of sessions is 3 which allows you to describe your issue of concern in greater detail through the art in the first session. In the second session we look at gaining deeper insight and understanding into the issue and in the third session, we work on building a strategy for consciously integrating the new insights and implementing them in your life.
For deeper long term issues, a course of 6 sessions may be of much greater benefit. For example, grieving the loss of a loved one or dealing with a difficult relationship. Behavioural issues such as addictions, eating disorders, mental illness and coping with chronic disease or diagnosis may take more sessions and can be negotiated depending on your individual situation.
From time to time you will be asked to bring some personal items from home or to collect found objects to bring to sessions. For your first session though you just need to bring yourself and an open mind to exploring the process of art therapy.
The hourly rate for sessions is indicated by the NDIS price guide which applies to all clients whether or not they are funded by the NDIS. To be fair and equitable to all clients, regardless of whether or not they live with a disability, the hourly rate is:
$190 per hour (including GST)
Unfortunately, at the current moment, there are no Medicare or private health fund rebates for art psychotherapy.
For people living with a disability who have an NDIS plan, art therapy is an approved form of therapy for which funding can be used by self-managed, plan-managed and agency-managed clients. Find out more about fees on our NDIS page.