We might be biased when it comes to advocating for all things art, but there’s really no mistaking the positive effects art can have on your mental health.

Turns out, same goes for creating it, no matter how much artistic talent you have. We were thrilled to learn this so we asked art therapist Lynell Weiss–who helped us throw an afternoon of art therapy–to walk us through the ins and outs of this creative and healing avenue of self-expression.

1. What is art therapy?

This is a fantastic place to start when learning more about whether art therapy could be a good fit for you. Technically speaking, art therapy is the application of the creative process in a therapeutic context.  It’s a form of expressive therapy that utilizes different art materials such as markers, clay, collage images, oil and chalk pastels and colored pencils to support the client in externalizing their thoughts, feelings and beliefs so that they can be addressed and explored in a non-threatening way.

Ambient Flora by by Danse de Lune

1975 kitchen by Danse de Lune

2. Why is it useful?

Sometimes we go through experiences that feel too large or significant for words to fully capture, and that is where art becomes useful. When words are not enough, we go to symbols and imagery to tell our stories, and in telling our stories through art we can find internal pathways to self-love, healing and transformation.

3. How is it different from talk therapy?

Art therapy is different than talk therapy in that it combines the theories and techniques of traditional psychotherapy with the interpersonal and tactile aspects of the creative process. It offers the client an active and somatic way to work through their emotions, their thoughts and ultimately their internal worlds. Often times, I find that it is our expectation of what the creative process should look or feel like that blocks us from actually engaging in it, and therapy is the perfect place to not only express and process those expectations, but also work through them visually and experientially.

Masquerade by Danse de Lune

graphic leaves I by Danse de Lune

4. Is it just for kids?

I get this one a lot. The short answer is no, art therapy is most certainly not just for kids. Of course, children can benefit greatly from creative and expressive therapies, but art therapy is just as effective for adults.

5. Do you have to be “good at art” in order to benefit from art therapy?

Absolutely not. The power of art therapy lies in the process of creating the art itself. It provides the client with an opportunity to reflect on and organize their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a non-verbal way.  You do not need to have any experience with art, nor do you have to perceive yourself as being “good at art” in order to benefit from engaging in the process.

If you are in LA and want to know more about art therapy or are interested in working with Lynell, you can reach her here and follow along with her practice here.

If you’re curious about other kinds of therapy or have additional questions about mental health support, check out this article or NAMI’s resource page.


Jessica McQueen