Art Therapy vs Art Education

Art Therapy

What is art therapy? 

Art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that uses art and the process of making art (mixed with psychology) to help improve well-being. The practice has been around since the 1940’s in hospitals in the UK when the doctors found that drawing was a great creative outlet for the tuberculosis patients. In addition, doctors in mental hospitals observed the connection between art expression and the release of emotions. 

Art therapy was being practiced In the United States around the same time and the American Art Therapy Association was founded in 1969.   There has been a lot of research on how art therapy is effective for treating trauma, grief, and anxiety. Specifically, art therapy helps to:

  • Improve cognitive functions like focus, memory, and decision making
  • Fosters Self esteem and self awareness - sometimes we have so many thoughts going on in our head that if we put it down on paper (whether in writing or drawing) we can look at it from a different perspective.  
  • Reduce stress and anxiety - which helps in all areas.  
  • And improve emotional resilience - having a little more control over our emotions rather than allowing our emotions to take over. 

How does art therapy differ from art education?

There are a lot of overlaps with art therapy and art education, but there are some distinct and important differences: 

  • Art teacher helps you develop skills in different types of art media - while an art therapist will be able to help you with some techniques, this is not the main focus  
  • An art therapist is trained in psychology - the understanding of human psychology and human development allows the art therapist to help you process your art and the emotions that come up.   
  • An art teacher helps students understand the elements of art like composition and balance
  • An art therapist doesn’t focus on formal art elements, but uses art to help process personal concerns.  
  • In an art class, students might be expected to display their art and get a grade
  • In art therapy, there is no right or wrong way to make your art. It is your expression and you don’t need to display it or share it outside of the art therapy session.  

Try This

Make art for yourself because it is calming - make any kind of art that feels good to you. Try not to judge or analyze your art - make a little bit of art everyday like it’s a meditation and see how you feel in a month. 

Connect with us:

The C.A.R.E. Program team would love to connect with you! 


Request caregiver resources

Contact our family caregiver team


Cookie Consent

We use cookies to improve your web experience. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use. Read our Internet Privacy Statement to learn what information we collect and how we use it.

Accept All Cookies