Art group therapy is a type of therapy that uses artistic expression to provide mental peace or clarity. Typically, therapy of this type occurs as part of a treatment program rather than in isolation, but some people attend art group therapy sessions without any other type of therapy. Unlike other group art courses, the focus in art group therapy is never on the quality of the finished piece from a critical perspective, but rather on the internal processes that resulted in a particular piece. Internal focus is emphasized in this type of therapy, leading to personal satisfaction or relief from certain mental disorders.
In most cases, art group therapy is a type of art class in which students or patients focus on connecting artistic expression to internal states. In some art therapy classes, the focus is placed on attention to those internal states and how the process of art is therapeutic. Other classes focus on interpretation of the finished product and how that finished product relates to internal states and a patient's history. The exact trajectory of art group therapy sessions depends on the instructor.
Exercises done in art group therapy vary, but themes such as self-portraits, interpretations of music, and symbolic journey images are common. Students may simply be allowed to express themselves freely with guidance from the instructor. As skills are taught but skill level is not the ultimate goal, discussion of the work can be extremely beneficial to participants. While individual understanding can be therapeutic, making others understand someone's art is often highly gratifying as well.
Commonly, mediums such as painting and drawing are used in art group therapy, but almost all forms of visual arts can be used in this type of therapy. Many people find that photography is better suited to people with certain disabilities or that sculpture may be a better fit. While drawing and painting are very popular, the point of this type of therapy is expression. It may be difficult to use photography in a group setting, but it is still possible.
Many different types of people engage in art therapy, and therapy sessions are often organized by the types of people attending. Young people, in particular, often benefit highly from the freedom of expression provided by art. Even so, older people with any number of different problems can benefit from this type of therapy. From people with physical or mental disabilities to people who are suffering from problems relating to a specific incident, such as the death of a loved one, almost anyone can benefit from the expression offered by art.