Art therapy is a therapeutic approach that utilizes the creative process of making art to improve mental, emotional, and psychological well-being. It recognizes the powerful connection between artistic expression and healing, providing individuals with a unique avenue to explore and communicate their thoughts and feelings. ​

Art therapists, trained professionals with expertise in both art and psychology, conduct art therapy sessions. They guide clients in engaging with various art materials such as paint, clay, drawing tools, and other artistic mediums to create artwork that reflects their inner experiences and emotions. Through the process of art-making and subsequent discussion, clients can gain insight into their thoughts and emotions, develop coping skills, and work through psychological challenges. 

Art Therapy

What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a therapeutic approach that harnesses the creative process and artistic expression to promote mental and emotional healing. Conducted by trained art therapists, it has a proven track record of effectiveness and is employed in various clinical and educational settings to address a wide range of mental health challenges. 

Here are some important stats and facts about art therapy: 

  • History: Art therapy has a rich history, with roots tracing back to the early 20th century. It gained recognition as a formal therapeutic discipline in the mid-20th century. 
  • Popularity: Art therapy is widely used in various clinical settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, and rehabilitation centers. It’s employed to address a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and substance use disorders. 
  • Evidence-Based: Research supports the efficacy of art therapy in improving mental health outcomes. Studies have shown its effectiveness in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, enhancing self-esteem, and aiding in trauma recovery. 
  • Diverse Applications: Art therapy is not limited to any age group or demographic. It is utilized with children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly, making it an inclusive therapeutic approach. 
  • Non-Verbal Communication: Art therapy offers a non-verbal means of expression, making it particularly beneficial for individuals who may struggle with traditional talk therapy or have difficulty expressing their emotions verbally. 
We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

How Does Art Therapy Treat Mental Health Disorders? ​

Art therapy is a dynamic and expressive approach to treating mental health disorders by harnessing the therapeutic potential of artistic expression. It is used to address various mental health challenges and can be integrated into an overall treatment plan or used as a standalone therapy.

Here’s how art therapy treats mental health disorders: 

  • Facilitating Self-Expression: Art therapy provides a non-verbal medium for individuals to express thoughts, feelings, and experiences they may find difficult to convey through words alone. This can be particularly beneficial for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where verbal communication can be challenging. 
  • Emotional Processing: Creating art allows individuals to externalize their emotions, making them more accessible for exploration and understanding. Art therapists guide clients in processing these emotions and developing healthy coping mechanisms. 
  • Enhancing Self-Awareness: Art therapy encourages introspection and self-reflection. Clients can gain insight into their subconscious thoughts and emotions, leading to greater self-awareness and improved self-esteem. 
  • Stress Reduction: Engaging in art-making can be relaxing and meditative, reducing stress and anxiety levels. This can benefit individuals with anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or panic disorder. 
  • Trauma Resolution: Art therapy can be instrumental in helping individuals process and recover from traumatic experiences. It provides a safe and non-threatening environment to explore trauma-related emotions and memories. 
  • Supporting Communication Skills: For individuals with communication disorders or social anxiety, art therapy can improve their ability to express themselves and interact with others more effectively. 


Art therapy is used to treat a wide range of mental health disorders, including but not limited to: 

  • Depression: Art therapy can help individuals explore and externalize their feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness, fostering a sense of empowerment and healing. 
  • Anxiety Disorders: Art therapy offers a creative outlet for managing symptoms of anxiety disorders, including excessive worry and panic attacks. 
  • Eating Disorders: It aids in self-exploration and addressing the underlying emotional issues related to conditions like anorexia nervosa and bulimia. 
  • Substance Use Disorders: Art therapy can be integrated into addiction treatment to explore triggers, cravings, and emotions related to substance abuse. 


Art therapy is often used in conjunction with other therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or medication, as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. The integration of art therapy with other approaches can enhance the effectiveness of treatment by addressing emotional and psychological aspects that may not be fully addressed by talk therapy alone. The decision to use art therapy as a standalone or complementary treatment is determined by the individual’s unique needs and the clinical judgment of mental health professionals. Either way, the benefits of art therapy are often surprisingly effective.

How Does Art Therapy Work? ​

Art therapy is a creative and expressive therapeutic process that harnesses the power of art-making to promote emotional and psychological well-being. It can be conducted individually or in group settings, depending on the client’s needs and preferences.

It is a versatile approach that can be used to address a wide range of mental health challenges. Whether it’s used in individual or group sessions, the creative process allows individuals to explore their inner world, gain insight, and develop healthier coping mechanisms. The therapist’s role is to facilitate this process, provide guidance, and create a safe and supportive environment for clients to express themselves through art. 

Here’s an overview of how art therapy typically works:

Get a Confidential Assessment From a Recovery Specialist

How to Get the Most Out of Art Therapy​

Phone coaching allows clients to contact their therapists between scheduled sessions for brief coaching on how to handle challenging or crisis situations using DBT skills.

The primary aim is to provide real-time guidance that helps clients apply the techniques they’ve learned in therapy to their everyday lives. This on-the-spot support aims to generalize the skills learned during individual and group therapy sessions to real-world scenarios, thus making the skills more ingrained and effective.

What to Expect in Art Therapy

Getting the most out of art therapy can be a transformative experience, especially for those attending for the first time. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your art therapy sessions:

  • Embrace the Creative Process: Remember that art therapy is about the process, not the final product. Allow yourself to be open to experimentation and self-expression without worrying about creating a masterpiece. 
  • Stay Open-Minded: Approach the sessions with an open mind and a willingness to explore your emotions and thoughts through art. Let go of preconceived notions about your artistic abilities. 
  • Express Yourself Authentically: Use art materials to express your feelings, thoughts, and experiences honestly. Art therapy is a safe space to be yourself and share your unique perspective. 
  • Trust Your Therapist: Trust your art therapist’s guidance and expertise. They are there to support you, offer insights, and help you navigate your creative journey. 
  • Avoid Self-Criticism: Resist the urge to judge your artwork or compare it to others’. There is no right or wrong way to create art in therapy, and self-criticism can hinder the therapeutic process. 
  • Reflect and Discuss: Take time to reflect on your artwork and be prepared to discuss it with your therapist. Sharing your thoughts and feelings about the art can lead to valuable insights. 
  • Set Intentions and Goals: Consider what you hope to achieve through art therapy. Whether it’s managing stress, improving self-esteem, or addressing specific issues, setting clear intentions can help guide your sessions. 
  • Be Patient: Art therapy is a gradual process, and breakthroughs may not happen immediately. Be patient with yourself and allow the therapeutic benefits to unfold over time. 
  • Consistency: Attend sessions regularly and commit to the process. Consistency can lead to deeper self-awareness and more profound therapeutic outcomes. 
  • Apply What You Learn: Take what you discover in art therapy and apply it to your daily life. The coping skills, insights, and self-awareness gained can help you navigate challenges outside of therapy. 

Remember that art therapy is a highly individualized experience, and what works best for one person may differ from another. The key is to engage authentically in the creative process, trust the therapeutic relationship, and be open to the potential for personal growth and healing that art therapy offers.

Looking For An In-Network Substance Abuse Therapist?

Art Therapy at South Coast Behavioral Health

Art Therapy plays a crucial role in the comprehensive mental health services offered at South Coast Behavioral Health (SCBH). SCBH recognizes the therapeutic potential of creative expression in promoting emotional healing and well-being. Art therapy is integrated into various levels of care to provide a holistic approach to treatment: 

  • Inpatient Care: In the intensive inpatient care setting, art therapy is used to help individuals stabilize their mental health. It provides a safe outlet for expression, self-reflection, and stress reduction. Clients can explore their emotions, cope with crisis situations, and develop essential coping skills through art-making. 
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): In the PHP, art therapy is a valuable component of the therapeutic curriculum. It allows individuals to continue their healing journey while transitioning back into their daily lives. Art therapy sessions address various mental health challenges and provide a structured, supportive environment. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): For clients in the IOP, art therapy offers a flexible and effective way to work on mental health goals while maintaining their daily routines. It promotes self-discovery, improved self-esteem, and the development of healthy coping strategies. 
  • Group Therapy: SCBH may incorporate group art therapy sessions within various group therapy programs. Group art therapy fosters a sense of community, encourages peer support, and allows individuals to connect through creative expression. 
  • Customized Treatment Plans: SCBH’s approach to art therapy is highly individualized. Therapists tailor art therapy sessions to align with each client’s unique needs, goals, and preferences, ensuring that it complements their overall treatment plan. 


SCBH recognizes that art therapy is a versatile and effective tool for addressing a wide range of mental health challenges. By integrating art therapy into its various levels of care, SCBH provides clients with additional resources for self-expression, healing, and personal growth. If you or someone you know is looking for resources on different types of mental health programs, including art therapy, SCBH is here to help. Contact us today for more information on how you can get started.  

Get A Confidential Assessment From A Recovery Specialist

Art Therapy in Orange County, CA

If you are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, art therapy may be an effective treatment option for you. It is important to note that art therapy requires active participation in order for it to be successful. If you think art therapy might be right for you, please reach out to us today!

We provide Art Therapy for men within our medical detox and residential treatment centers in Irvine, CA. 

Learn More

We offer Art Therapy for women at our medical detox and residential treatment centers in Huntington Beach, CA. 

Learn More

We provide Art Therapy for men within our residential inpatient facility in Costa Mesa, CA. 

Learn More

We provide Art Therapy during our PHP and IOP programs in Newport Beach, CA. 

Learn More

Let us help you take back your life.
You are the most important individual that we can help. You matter to us in ways that we cannot describe in words. Your life has value, and no matter how broken you think you are, we are here to help put the pieces back together.