art based therapy



ABOUT PSYCHOTHERAPYTherapy through art

The College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) defines the process and purpose of psychotherapy in this way:

To treat, by means of psychotherapy technique delivered through a therapeutic relationship, an individual’s serious disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgment, insight, behaviour, communication or social functioning. (See Psychotherapy Act, 2007, section 4.)

It is also important to understand the difference between psychotherapy and counselling in order for you to make an informed decision. The Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council (HPRAC) provides this statement:

The practice of psychotherapy is distinct from both counselling, where the focus is on the provision of information, advice-giving, encouragement and instruction, and spiritual counselling, which is counselling related to religion or faith-based beliefs. (See HPRAC:  New Directions, 2006; Chapter 7, Regulation of Psychotherapy, p. 208.)

Psychotherapy can follow an array of theoretical frameworks that the psychotherapist has been trained in. My practice of psychotherapy is informed by the training I have received in the following:

My work with children, youth and families specifically utilizes the attachment & emotion focused form of psychotherapy called Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) also know as Attachment-focused family therapy (AFFT).

The core process of DDP is what is called Affective-Reflective dialogue (A-R). The primary way in which the therapist becomes engaged in the dialogue is with the attitude of what is known by the acronym PACE, which stands for playfulness, acceptance, curiousity, and empathy.

During the therapy, the therapist facilitates intersubjective communication between parent and child. At its core, this treatment involves facilitating the development of specific patterns of communication and relationship among family members. These patterns provide safety and learning for all members of the family without relying on fear, shame, or force.

In this manner of relating each family member maintains an openness to the inner life of the other while communicating his or her own inner life, including thoughts, emotions, and intentions.

The above paragraph was taken from the book Attachment-Focused Family Therapy Workbook by psychologist Daniel A. Hughes, published by W.W. Norton and Company, 2011.


Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses the creation of art to help people express themselves with difficult or unexpressed feelings and to learn how to work through them. The creative process opens a safe space for exploration and focusing on specific goals in therapy. Previous artistic experience is not required.

The creative process of art-making combined with therapeutic dialogue is used to uncover and treat issues such as attachment disorders, trauma, grief, anger, loss due to illness or separation, anxiety, depression, and learning and developmental disorders.

A variety of art materials and techniques are used in art therapy; painting using tempera, acrylic, finger-paint and watercolour paint; sculpting using natural and synthetic clay as well as modeling clay; sand tray (the use of small figurines in a portable sand box); puppet-making and drama; drawing using pencils, pencil crayons, charcoal, oil and chalk pastels and crayons; collage.

What are the benefits of art therapy? therapy through art

Art therapy is effective in supporting children, youth, and adults while they are exploring difficult feelings, memories, and situations. The non-verbal medium of art-making serves to ease the anxiety and frustration of giving voice to the difficult or blocked feelings associated with certain events or patterns of behaviour. In art therapy, creating a piece of art related to the feeling, event, person, or memory, allows the individual to externalize the experience and gain a new perspective, while working through the associated feelings at an individualized pace, in a therapeutic environment.

Art therapy addresses trauma in an uniquely effective manner. Trauma is stored in the limbic part of the brain where imagery and feeling are also located. In order to process trauma, one needs to be able to use non-verbal therapies (involving imagery and evoking feelings) first to access the limbic part of the brain. Only then can the trauma experience be moved forward into the frontal lobes of the brain which control speech and reason allowing the person to then speak of the pain and make sense of it.

About the Psychotherapy and Art Therapy Sessions

Psychotherapy Services Now Recognized as a Medical Expense
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has recently recognized the cost of non-reimbursed services provided by Registered Psychotherapists as a medical expense eligible for tax credit. The CRA website listing eligible expenses should reflect this change shortly. The tax year of 2016 will be the first year that this change applies.