Art Therapy is a wonderful outlet and means of self connection and personal development.
Art Therapy outcome research with diverse populations continues to be published in different academic journals in art therapy, psychology, psychotherapy, counseling, special populations, art education, etc.
Neurodivergent and Autistic individuals can find a space to explore, play and be in tune with their authentic selves without the need to fit in or mask. Creatives can engage in an exploration of mediums and art modalities in a safe and supportive space, free of judgement or evaluation.
What is Art Therapy?
Art Therapy is a mental health profession that combines traditional counselling theory with the visual art process and exploration to improve emotional, mental and physical health. Art Therapy focuses on the client’s ability to use simple art materials to express and resolve trauma and inner conflict, and to practice emotional regulation and rediscover joy.
Who can practice Art Therapy?
Art Therapists are trained professionals with expertise in counseling psychology and fine arts and hold a Master’s Degree or Master’ level Diploma at minimum in addition to supervised Practicum Placements. They abide by an art therapy specific Code of Ethics and must maintain good standing with an internationally recognized association such as the Canadian Art Therapy Association or BC Art Therapy Association.
Where is Art Therapy offered?
Art therapy is offered in settings such as schools, counselling agencies, treatment centers, hospitals, correctional facilities and elder care services.
Art Therapy can help at any age
Art Therapists work with diverse clients and adjust accordingly to the individual’s ability to understand and integrate the concepts brought forward during an art therapy session.
Benefits of Art Therapy for children?
Children will find the therapy studio as a safe space where they can choose which materials to use and engage with difficult topics in their own way. Meaning making, metaphor and storytelling are quite natural to children and so they usually need little prompting to engage in art and play. Art Therapy assists children in the following ways:
Assists in coping with physical health conditions such as cancer
Decreases loneliness and social isolation
Reduces anxiety and agitation
Builds interpersonal skills, and increases meaningful and positive interaction with family and friends
Increases self awareness and supports identity formation
Builds positive coping skills
Promotes freedom of choice, sense of achievement, and sense of mastery, thus increasing self-esteem
Art Therapy for Adults and Teenagers
Teens and adults can benefit from Art Therapy by finding a new way to externalize thoughts and feelings that had long been stuck or buried, reconnect with inner strengths and develop alternate responses to old stressors and problems. Sometimes, adult clients need to unlearn certain expectations of what art making looks like and often they need help overcoming years of conditioning and value judgements about their artistic ‘skill’ or ‘talent’. The art therapist has the honour and responsibility to guide their client and offer reassurance and validation in this rediscovery of their creative spirit and ability to engage this healing and regenerative part of themselves. The following are reasons why adults and teens seek the services of an Art Therapist:
- Major life transitions (pregnancy, illness, career changes, loss)
- Depression, Anxiety and Panic Disorders
- Past or recent trauma or abuse
- Substance Use Disorders
- Grief and loss
- Divorce and Separation
- Relationship Issues
- Personal development and Identity Exploration
- Sexuality Conflicts/Questions
- Self Harming and Suicidality
- Mental Health Concerns due to Chronic Pain, Illness and Injury
Published Research and Examples of Art Therapy
Art Therapy for Trauma
Often times talking about traumatic events can be triggering and harmful for clients. Trauma work is particularly sensitive and requires careful pacing so that the benefits outweigh the emotional toll of revisiting the hurt. Art therapy offers a way of accessing the sensory memories through manipulation of art materials and allows the client to externalize the experience. The resulting artwork can serve as a symbolic representation and container of the effects of trauma, thus aiding the person in integrating the experience and feelings into one’s life narrative. This can lead to posttraumatic growth and a re-authoring of an individual’s dominant story into one of resilience.
Art Therapy for Grief
Integrating narrative therapy and meaning making approaches with CBT for complicated grief. The goal is to use art therapy to help the client integrate their loved ones death in their life story. This can be done by helping the client create a story board of their life including the loss and other important events and thus encouraging the client to visualize the continuity of their life after the loss. Another approach would be to help the client process their somatic responses to the loss through body tracings. Giving shape and colour to the sensations that accompany the grief allows the client to develop language around change and progress. Through various art techniques clients can also create a memorial piece using photos or items of significance and process the thoughts and feelings that emerge in a very intentional way.
Art Therapy for practicing self-compassion
Self compassion has been shown to be a protective factor for mental health. ONEBird is a model which combines the practice of Mindfulness, Self-Compassion and Art Therapy as a way to reduce suffering.
‘For example, after a brief check-in, a typical session opens with discussion regarding a mindful or self-compassionate concept, and is followed by a direct experience of a related practice. Then a creative activity based on the experiential component is completed. Finally, if appropriate, verbal processing of the image and entire experience is conducted. The approach is similar within both individual and group work.’
We are here to support you along your journey.
We are now accepting both virtual appointments as well as in-person appointments. Click below and schedule your first visit today!
Meet the Team
AVAILABLE ONLINE ONLY
DEMOGRAPHIC: Children, Youth, Adults, Families
SPECIALTIES: Depression and Anxiety, Life transitions, Grief and Loss, Substance Use and Addiction, Trauma, Illness
Ana-Maria Comia, DVATI
Languages: English, Romanian
Whether you are re-taking control of your life and starting over or you are looking to set time aside for your mental wellbeing, Art Therapy can help. Art Therapy is widely used as an auxiliary treatment for depression, illness and chronic pain, addiction and trauma. Children and Youth particularly respond well to Art Therapy as it offers a less confrontational approach to counseling.
I have experience working with children and youth with various challenges stemming from parental separation, anxiety disorders, grief and loss and especially difficulties with social inclusion and feeling outcasted. I encourage you to reach out and start your wellness journey. I truly look forward to showing you how Art Therapy can help better your life.
I am an Art Therapist with over six years of experience providing trauma informed mental health and addictions support to vulnerable clients in Surrey. Art Therapy is a treatment approach that combines the creative process and psychotherapy, facilitating self-exploration and understanding.
A common misconception is that artistic ‘skill’ or ‘talent’ is required to benefit from art therapy. In fact, many artists find that their perfectionistic attitude towards their skill level promotes anxiety and a sense of failure. The purpose of Art Therapy is to promote wellness by engaging your creativity, playfulness and problem solving skills.
I have a Masters Level Diploma in Art Therapy from Vancouver Art Therapy Institute which followed a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of British Columbia. My training background and experience includes community outreach, addictions and trauma work and family counselling. I have extensive experience working with children, teens and families and have a personal interest in connecting with families who are newly arrived in Canada.
As a young person who experienced uprooting one’s life and moving across the world to start over, I quickly found my passion working with children and youth in Surrey neighbourhoods where the kids often acted as English interpreters for their parents. These families had the unique challenge of finding that their children were more independent and capable of navigating their new environment and culture than they were. The disconnection and alienation they experienced created large gaps in communication causing anger and hurt on both sides. The youth centre programs I ran helped bridge this gap allowing the kids to draw strength from their resilience and find creative ways of engaging their parents and bringing the community together. I also participated in community outreach, forging alliances with at risk youth vulnerable to homelessness and addiction.
More recently I have been working with women struggling with trauma and multiple barriers (justice system involvement, homelessness, generational trauma, addiction) and found that Art Therapy provided something that regular psychotherapy couldn’t – a way to own their story and become authors of their own experience, creating something tangible out of their pain and self-advocating in the process.
How I work with clients:
I work with clients in a variety of ways and I cater my methods to my client’s needs and therapeutic goals. Often, I will introduce a client to a theme and suggest a directive which will touch on or evoke a response in that theme.
An example would be working with the theme of identity. I would ask the client to create a sculptural lifeline which would showcase their life journey, major life events, accomplishments etc. The client will have an opportunity to choose the size of the sculpture, materials used (wire, paper mache, cardboard, string) and which events or information to include. Some clients prefer to talk about their process while they are creating, while others prefer to discuss their results upon completion. A theme can be explored over a number of sessions and through various directives like masks, photos, body tracings, sculpture.
The resulting artistic product is the property of the client and retains the same confidentiality protection as the context discussed in a session. It is up to the client how the art is handled, stored or disposed of. As well, a client’s permission is required to share the art with others outside of the scope of supervision.
Here are some specific examples of clients I work with/have worked with in the past:
- Child whose parents have recently separated and is experiencing extreme separation anxiety
- Mother and young (4) child, fleeing domestic abuse and child acting out through aggression towards Mom
- Young adult woman recently moved out from home due to Mom’s substance use, struggling with self-worth and depression.
- Young woman awaiting trial for robbery, with multiple childhood trauma incidents, survivor of incest.
- Autistic child experiencing alienation from peers and loneliness, rejection.
- Autistic adult, exploring their authentic self and wanting to delve into their masking behaviour and repression of their intrinsic self regulation mechanisms.
- Child who recently experienced the loss of an estranged parent due to suicide.