What is art therapy?

Recently I came across the profession of art therapist through a conversation with a good friend. He is already responsible for a school near me as a pedagogically active youth worker and is currently doing his further training as an art therapist.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a young therapeutic treatment method. It was developed in parallel in Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world in the middle of the 20th century.

This form of therapy has a wide range of applications and is used in schools, institutions for the disabled and  in hospitals. In itself, wherever therapeutic measures can be applied. The application is not restricted to specific age groups or social groups.

Their recognition, especially with regard to legal regulations, is not the same everywhere. In England and Switzerland, the integration of the profession of art therapist is strongly regulated by law, in Germany, however, hardly at all.

The most striking feature is that art therapy adds a third element to the patient and the therapist. This means that a relationship triangle is created from the usual bilateral relationship.

The design of the patient at work is thus the supplementary element. Complex relationships can be created through different settings. Different forms of artistic activity can be used.

Work on the clay field

While working on the clay field, the patient works on malleable clay in a wooden box. The following video offers a very good insight.

Mess Painting

Spontaneity is at the centre of this type of painting. To achieve this spontaneity, painting is performed under time pressure. Only seconds are available for each painting. The process of painting is in the focus, not the picture as such.

Expressive painting

Arno Stern developed this method in the 1950s. The playful aspect is in the focus, not the artistic design. Similar to Messpainting, the path is the goal.

Drawing forms

This art therapeutic method is widespread in Waldorf education.

Drawing test

The Rorschach test in particular should be familiar to many, as it is often shown in film productions. But also other methods like the thematic apperception test and the Wartegg-drawing test belong to this category.

Art therapy in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the profession of art therapist is regulated by law. A recognised state qualification is required in order to be able to offer his services as an art therapist.

Art therapy in Switzerland is widespread. In any case, pay attention to the qualifications that guarantee a correspondingly high-quality education.


Art therapy is an interesting addition to the longer known therapeutic methods. It is still relatively new, but has already proven its effectiveness in practice and has become an indispensable part of modern therapy.