Art as Therapy - Clare Miles

There is a growing body of evidence which supports the arts and art therapy as a complementary method of improving and maintaining both mental and physical health and wellbeing (BAAT, 2018).  Participating in arts programs can be a way of enabling resilience for those facing difficult and traumatic situations, particularly when it is difficult for people to put their experience into words (Dieterich-Hartwell and Koch, 2017).  Engagement with the arts therapies and art for health may increase integration with others, as well as enable psychological change (

Art therapy practice has been heavily influenced by attachment theory, the sensory nature of the arts process can itself facilitate connection encourage attunement and mirroring behavior BAAT (2018).  This can be particularly significant in building attachment between mother and child where the act of creating together enables the mother to mirror and attune to the needs and emotions of the child (Case and Dalley, 2014; Winnicott, 1965).  The facilitator and the art work itself can provide a way for feelings and experience to be contained or projected, enabling difficult thoughts and feelings to be communicated (Case and Dalley, 2014).

Attending regular art sessions may also provide a place to belong, to be heard and to integrate with others who may share experience, and within a new situation such as a refugee may experience and the facilitator is key in creating a safe and secure environment in which people can belong and feel safe to express themselves (Dieterich-Hartwell and Koch, 2017).  This can particularly be the case where people find themselves in a place of ‘limbo’ and being in a temporary situation and the act of making together. Producing something pleasing and personal to their own identity and situation, may enable the created object to become a transitional piece which can be held on to at a time of great upheaval and uncertainty (Dieterich-Hartwell and Koch, 2017).  According to a report on arts in health, culturally sensitive delivery of arts therapies, may be especially useful for women refugees following complex trauma when delivered in partnership with other services supporting their health care (Cayton 2007).

From:  Miles E C (2018) MA Art Therapy University of Derby, Unpublished.

References—is-arts-in-health.  Accessed 5/3/18; 10:00.

British Association of Art Therapists BAAT (2018)

Case C and Dalley T (2014) The Handbook of Art Therapy.  3rd edition.  London: Routledge.

Cayton H (2007) Report of the Review of Arts and Health Working Group. London: Department of Health.

Dieterich-Hartwell R and Koch SC (2017) Creative Arts Therapies as a Temporary Home for Refugees: Insights from Literature and Practice.  Behavioral Sciences 7(69).

Winnicott D (1965) Child Analysis in the Latency Period In the Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment.  London: Hogarth Press.