What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy provides the opportunity to explore personal problems and potentials through verbal and non-verbal expression. Art Therapy helps to develop physical, emotional and learning skills through therapeutic art experiences. Therapy through art recognizes art processes, forms, content and associations as reflections of an individual’s development, abilities, personality, interest and concerns. The use of art as therapy implies that the creative process can be a means both reconciling emotional conflicts and of fostering self-awareness and personal growth.

Who benefits from Art Therapy?

Children, adolescents and adults can all benefit from Art Therapy. Individuals with special needs that are emotional, physical or spiritual can greatly benefit from individual or group Art Therapy. Individuals including children who are experiencing depression, loss, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, behavior problems, problems with divorce and separation, and children in foster care or issues with adoption can all benefit from individual or group Art Therapy. Also individuals who are recovering from addiction and survivors of sexual trauma can benefit from Art Therapy.  Individuals with dementia and age related transitions can also positively benefit from Art Therapy programs. All individuals seeking Art Therapy can be referred by their physician, psychiatrists, psychologist or teacher.

Art Therapy is not just drawing or creating art work. Artistic talent or an interest in the arts is not necessary for successful participation in Art Therapy. Art Therapy provides a setting in which the individual can experiment with being more creative, learn more about themselves and take steps toward change.

The Practice of Art Therapy

While the use of art in healing probably dates back to prehistoric times, Art Therapy came into its own as a profession in the United States during the 1930’s and 40’s. When psychiatrists became interested in the artworks of patients in mental institutions, they discovered that the creative process of art making enhanced their recovery, health and wellbeing.

Art Therapists are graduates of Master programs of accredited programs throughout the United States. They are nationally board credentialed and can also be State licensed to practice their work in their respective states. They work in primary and adjunctive capacities with people of all ages in clinical, educational and rehabilitative settings. Through observation and analysis of the art product and process; as well as the dialogue that is facilitated, the Art Therapist formulates diagnostic assessments and treatment plans as a part of a total therapy program.

Even though Art Therapy is seen as a client-centered and driven process, Art Therapists take an active role in facilitating the session: by providing clients with appropriate therapeutic materials; helping them use the materials in a productive manner and helping them resolve conflicts or recognize behaviors brought to the surface by the creative process. Art Therapy can be practiced in individual sessions and/or as part of a group process.

Art Therapists maintain professional documentation on all services provided to their clients. This includes evaluations, progress charting and visual records of art work. In addition, Art Therapists may be required to provide diagnostic and assessment services.

Art Therapists function as integral members of a therapeutic team as well as serve as consultants of conduct private practices. Art Therapists may also function as supervisors, administrators, consultants, and expert witnesses. Creative practitioners and researchers continue to develop new applications of art therapy.

Art Therapy in South Carolina

Art Therapy is over 35 years old and going strong in South Carolina! A small group of Art Therapy professionals met in the 1970’s to network, promote their services and educate the health arena to the benefits of Art Therapy. Art Therapists in South Carolina achieved their non-profit status in 1998 and a year later became an affiliate of the National American Art Therapy Association. They are known as the South Carolina Association of Art Therapists (SCAAT). Over the years the association has held numerous statewide conferences, exhibits, local symposiums, educational workshops, retreats and presented at National conferences. SCAAT is committed to professionalism in the field of Art Therapy and continues to educate South Carolina to the benefits of Art Therapy services. Art Therapists in South Carolina work in all facets of social services including: schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, addiction and recovery facilities, senior centers and in private counseling practices.

The South Carolina Association of Art Therapists is a professional group that meets to share their career and passion in constructive ways. They work on therapeutic alliances, and to build understanding for the career ;as well as to encourage growth as a clinical service in South Carolina.  As one of the Association’s most important professional goals is the desire to educate other about the professional group and how they work in the community. The Art Therapists are dedicated to use their profession to help facilitate creative change in each individual they work with.

South Carolina and National Resources

The Art and Play Therapy Center of South Carolina

Contact: Lyssa Harvey Ed.S ATR-BC    



The South Carolina Association of Art Therapists

Contact: Mary How  ATR       


American Art Therapy Association