Blog Details

What is Art Therapy and How Does it Work?

art therapy office

art therapy officeHow is an art therapy session different from a psychotherapy (talk therapy) session?


Art therapy and psychotherapy (talk therapy) diverge significantly in their methodologies, processes, and focus areas. Art therapy employs creative processes such as drawing, painting, and sculpting, allowing clients to express themselves through art. This medium facilitates the exploration of emotions and thoughts that might be challenging to articulate verbally.

Our art therapists in Toronto typically begin their sessions with an art-making activity, where the art therapist provides prompts and then engages the client in discussing the artwork. The emphasis in art therapy is on the creative process and the produced artwork, which helps uncover subconscious issues and provides symbolic insights. This approach is particularly beneficial for individuals who find verbal communication difficult, including children, and is often used to address trauma, anxiety, and developmental disorders.

In addition to providing English services, we offer art therapy services in Farsi, Portuguese, Mandarine and Cantonese.

In contrast, our psychotherapy services in Toronto primarily involve verbal communication between the psychotherapist and client. The process focuses on dialogue, exploring thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationships through conversation. Various techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic therapy, are employed to help clients gain insight, change behavior, and develop coping strategies.

Unlike art therapy, talk therapy requires clients to articulate their experiences and work through issues verbally, with the therapist actively listening, providing feedback, and guiding the discussion. The emphasis is on verbalizing experiences and cognitive processing, making it suitable for a broad range of mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to relationship problems and personality disorders.

Thus, while both therapeutic approaches aim to enhance mental and emotional well-being, art therapy achieves this through creative expression, and talk therapy through verbal exploration, catering to different client preferences and needs.

What are the main differences between an art therapist and a psychotherapist?


– Medium of Expression: Art therapy uses creative arts as a primary mode of expression, while psychotherapy relies on verbal communication.

– Focus on Process: In art therapy, the creation process is therapeutic in itself, whereas in talk therapy, the focus is on dialogue and cognitive processes.

– Client’s Engagement: Art therapy can be less intimidating for those who struggle with verbal expression, offering an alternative way to communicate emotions. Talk therapy requires clients to articulate their thoughts and feelings directly.

– Therapeutic Goals: Both approaches aim to improve mental health but may achieve this through different pathways – one through creative expression and the other through verbal exploration.


Can Art Therapy Help with Specific Conditions?


The Art Therapy Association of Quebec (AATQ)and The Ontario Art Therapy Association (OATA) provide a list of conditions that can benefit from art therapy.  Here are some more examples of conditions that our art therapists in Toronto can help you with:

  1. Trauma and PTSD

Art therapy provides a safe and non-verbal way for individuals to express and process traumatic experiences. It can help in reducing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by allowing individuals to explore their feelings and experiences through creative expression.


  1. Anxiety

Individuals suffering from anxiety can benefit from art therapy by using the creative process to express and manage their worries and fears. The process of making art can also be calming and help reduce anxiety levels.


  1. Depression

Art therapy can aid those with depression by helping them express their emotions and thoughts that may be difficult to verbalize. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment and purpose, which can be therapeutic.


  1. Developmental Disorders

Children and adults with developmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can benefit from art therapy. It provides an alternative means of communication and can help improve social skills and emotional regulation.


  1. Grief and Loss

Art therapy can be a valuable tool for those dealing with grief and loss. It allows individuals to express their feelings of sadness, anger, and confusion, and can help in the process of healing and acceptance.


  1. Chronic Illness and Pain

Individuals with chronic illnesses or chronic pain can use art therapy to cope with their condition. It offers a way to express the emotional impact of living with a chronic illness and can help improve the overall quality of life.


  1. Addiction

Art therapy can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan for addiction. It helps individuals explore the underlying issues related to their addiction, express their feelings, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.


  1. Eating Disorders

Art therapy can be effective in treating eating disorders by helping individuals explore their body image issues and emotional struggles related to food and self-esteem.


  1. Stress Management

For those dealing with high levels of stress, art therapy can provide a constructive outlet for expressing and managing stress. The act of creating art can be relaxing and meditative.


  1. Behavioral Issues

Children and adolescents with behavioral issues can benefit from art therapy by finding alternative ways to express their emotions and improve their self-control and social interactions.


  1. Self-Esteem and Identity Issues

Art therapy can help individuals struggling with self-esteem and identity issues by allowing them to explore and express their self-concept and build a positive self-image.


  1. Relationship Issues

Art therapy can be used in couple’s therapy or family therapy to improve communication and understanding among family members or partners. It can help individuals express their feelings and work through conflicts in a non-confrontational way.

These examples illustrate the versatility and effectiveness of art therapy in addressing a wide range of psychological and emotional issues. By providing an alternative form of expression, art therapists in Toronto can help individuals gain insights, process emotions, and develop healthier coping strategies.

In essence, while both art therapy and talk therapy aim to foster mental and emotional healing, they do so through different methods and can be chosen based on a client’s personal preferences, needs, and comfort levels.

To schedule a free consultation session with one of our art therapists in Toronto, contact us at 416-877-0137 or email us at

Related Posts

Leave a Comment