What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that combines therapy with creative expression. Unlike talk therapy, it uses artmaking as a tool for the healthy expression of emotions, feelings and lived experiences. It helps when words fail and is more experiential than verbal.

Art therapy can help with expressing and processing negative experiences, feelings and emotions. Talking about your creation provides a great opportunity to learn more about yourself, develop coping strategies and gain personal insight. During sessions, my clients say they experience positive self-growth and emotional release. Their creativity is often sparked.

Art therapy has deep roots in modern psychotherapy. Although it was formally considered a therapy in the '50s, it has been around for hundreds of years. Many famous psychologists have stated that artmaking is an amazing way to express oneself and that it's good for mental health and our soul. Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers all promoted art-making in their writings but the clever psychotherapist, Margaret Naumberg was the grandmother of art therapy. Way to rock Grandma Naumberg!

Despite some people using the term "art therapy" it is not simply art class or art making. Those things do feel therapeutic, but art therapy only happens between a trained art therapist and a client.

Expressive Art in Art Therapy, Expressing Anger in a Healthy Way
Made with crayons, markers, scissors and glue at Art Therapy Guelph

What types of clients do you see?

I work with children, teens and adults. The children I see are usually 5 years old and up.

I offer support for people who may be experiencing a wide range of emotional difficulties. Some of my clients simply have something weighing them down that they want to work through. That may be negative life experiences, relationship and workplace issues or big transitions. A good majority of my client base has had some form of anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder, stress/burnout and/or perfectionism. I also see clients with negative childhoods, trauma histories, depression and grief.

However, I am trained as an art therapist to work with many types of issues. Thus I am not limited to the list above. I believe every person is a mix of their innate disposition and their life experiences.

What if I stink at art?

Art therapy does not require artistic talent and no one judges your art. Artmaking with me is simply about being free from the expectation of making something perfect. It is more about the process and allowing the art materials to express emotions and feelings with whatever colours, textures, marks or materials you see fit.

Most of my clients consider art therapy to be a fun and gentle form of therapy. If you enjoy playing around with art materials, art therapy would suit your interests.

What makes art therapy different from art classes?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy and involves a therapeutic relationship that is a safe and confidential place to share. It helps people work through mental and emotional issues and lived experiences. The art itself is not required to be beautiful or follow a set of rules, it is simply for self-expression. Art therapy allows the client to freely express themselves with whatever colours, medium or theme they wish.

Art lessons teach techniques. In sessions, I do give guidance on how to use unfamiliar materials if asked but I allow the person to express themselves however they wish. The end product is not the goal, but the artmaking process is. 

Do I need a doctor's referral?

At this time no referral is necessary.

Why would I see an art therapist and not a regular therapist?

I believe that every person has to find what type of therapy is right for them. Traditional therapy uses talking as the primary mode of communication. In art therapy with me, I use mostly creative artmaking and a little verbal communication. Thus sessions are not bound by words and language. Sessions are about the use of images, colours, symbols and marks for expression. It is more tactile, physical and experiential than verbal. Thus art therapy sessions can help when words fail.

The famous psychologist, Carl Jung, wrote about how artmaking taps into the unconscious mind. Some memories and experiences are stored as bodily felt sense rather than something that can be verbally articulated. Art therapy is helpful in ways that we are not limited by speech.

According to research on art therapy, people who are experiencing psychosis are not a good fit for art therapy. Psychosis is defined as a person's thoughts and perceptions having lost touch with reality. Something else to consider is that every therapist has a certain skill set and scope of practice. It is best to interview any therapist to ask questions prior to booking an appointment to determine if it is a good fit.

Are you a psychotherapist and art therapist?

Yes, Heather Caruso is a registered psychotherapist (RP) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) and an art therapist registered with the Canadian Art Therapy Association  (CATA) and Ontario Art Therapy Association (OATA). Not all art therapists are registered psychotherapists. To become an RP in Ontario, one must demonstrate high standards and follow the CRPO's guidelines to ensure the public's best interest, demonstrate competency, integrity, learning and ethical practices.

What happens in an art therapy session?

Typically I check in with how you are feeling. You are not limited in what you say. In art therapy, my clients set the tone and say anything and everything. I will ask what colours, materials and symbols may express your feelings in the art. I may also recommend a guided art therapy exercise. After the art is finished we explore the messages in the art and reflect on what it means to you in order to gain a better understanding. You may be surprised at what comes out in your art-making. For example, there may be tears, laughter, and past stories you share to help me understand. Sometimes the art shows a person's limiting beliefs and unhelpful thought patterns. We will work through these things and you will be honoured in a safe space.

Do you analyze or judge my artwork?

Nope! I am trained to view art through the use of materials and colours. In my art therapy practice, I let the person tell me what their art means to them. Without their personal description, the judging of art would only be speculation.

What do you do with my artwork?

If we work together online, I take a screenshot of your art to keep in your file. In-person I take a picture for your file. The art shows how things are progressing from session to session.

Being a therapist, I belong to a regulatory body for my profession. Part of this is having a clinical supervisor. I meet with them for an hour or two per month. When I chat with my supervisor about questions I have or if I need to unpack bearing witness to traumatic information. I may show the artwork to them but they do not have any of your personal details nor do they retain any copies. The supervisor may make suggestions surrounding what art directives may be beneficial for a case.

If you do art therapy in person, the artwork is stored while it dries. If you are partial to your art, you are welcome to bring it home with you. Your creations are private and not shared with others, without permission. Naturally, due to space limitations, the artwork is not kept long-term. After the art therapy sessions finish, we ask you to pick up your artwork. If you do not, we will give ample notice before we dispose of the work.

What is your privacy policy?

All of my client's personal information and sessions are private. The only time it is not private, is when a client says they are going to hurt themselves or someone else or if a minor is being abused. In teen and children's cases, parents get updates but I discuss with the client what information they consent to share. The focus on sharing is when I feel it will benefit the client.

How long is an art therapy session?

Each art therapy session is 50 minutes long.

Are art therapy sessions covered by insurance?

If your insurance policy covers a Registered Psychotherapist or an Art Therapist you would be reimbursed for whatever your provider allows per session or calendar year.

Clients are required to pay for their sessions themselves and submit their receipts to their insurance themselves.

Does OHIP or ODSP cover art therapy?

No at this time OHIP and ODSP does not pays for art therapy.

How much do sessions cost?

A one-on-one session is $160.00 plus HST.

Group art therapy pricing varies according to the group. Click here for group info.

We have a sliding scale available for a few of our appointment slots.

Is there wheelchair access? 

This location does have wheelchair access, in the form of a ramp leading to our door. There is no automatic door.

What kind of setup and art materials
do I need for online art therapy?

Art Therapy in Guelph Sample of Suggested Art Materials

People who do video conferencing art therapy sessions require a tablet, phone or computer with a camera and speakers. We use a PIPEDA-compliant zoom app. They also need an internet connection with our suggested app, a private, quiet area with a workspace and their art supplies handy.

We have an art supply kit available for purchase, click here. 

Art supplies should be pencils, pencil crayons, markers, acrylic or watercolour paints and brushes, air dry clay and or play dough, magazines, glue and scissors (for collage) and pastels. An art journal, 9 x 12 inches with thick paper is useful, however paper can be larger up to 22 x 28 inches.

I do not recommend online art therapy for people who have ADHD, autism and those with trouble self-regulating. Young children tend to do better with in-person art therapy.

Considering Becoming an Art Therapy Guelph Client?

If you are thinking about becoming a client of Art Therapy Guelph, reach out to book a free 15 minute get acquainted chat today. During this time you can ask questions about our services and see if it feels like a good fit.

Call us at 519 830 7123 during business hours or use our online contact form.