What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a branch of the social services profession that uses art media, images, and the creative art process to encourage individuals to express their thoughts and feelings. This form of therapy uses art as the pathway to dialogue and has proven to be effective in calming people with anxiety, bringing relief from depression, grieving, dealing with anger and frustration and to cope with life changes.  Outcomes of art therapy include increased self-awareness, improved social skills, effective behavior management, increased self-esteem, empathy, social interest and improved academic performance.

Art is a language of expression.  For an at-risk student art therapy reaches beyond verbal intervention providing a safe, fun and creative environment for self-exploration and understanding.  The process of making artwork, the artwork itself and the description of the artwork by the student gives them a means to express thoughts and feelings that he/she would not be able to otherwise articulate.  Working with art materials in safe environment can calm students with anxiety, help them deal with anger and frustration, cope with life changes and experience positive interactions with others.  Art therapy can also help students develop better self-awareness, improve social skills, manage behavior and increase self-esteem.

Art therapy is especially beneficial for creating an environment where each student can find a sense of community and belonging while expressing him or herself in a comfortable, safe and encouraging atmosphere.  The art therapists nurture a therapeutic relationship with each student by facilitating and encouraging a sense of belonging, acceptance, self-control, cooperation and concentration.

3 faces- cropped for web ATC Programs

Art Therapy– ATC offers a 34-week school-based mental healthcare program that integrates art with psychotherapy to develop self-awareness, self-esteem and self-management skills.  The artwork created becomes the pathway to dialogue thus enabling even the most withdrawn and non-verbal students to have a voice, through their visual images. These images document thoughts, feelings, conflicts, problems, and personal issues. The program follows a structured curriculum with weekly topics directly related to the students’ issues. Students are seen individually and within art therapy groups.

Expressive Arts– ATC provides a 34-week school-based expressive arts program that involves art interventions designed for all students, regardless of their social, emotional and academic functioning. The curriculum focuses on the expressive components of art making and helps students develop social and emotional learning skills. Drama, dance, music, and visual arts are incorporated into the curriculum.

Teacher Support– ATC provides a supplemental training and support curriculum for teachers whose students are participating in art therapy and expressive arts.

Clinical Program– ATC partners with a wide range of mental health educational institutions to provide a yearlong internship site for Chicago area graduate art therapy students. ATC’s practicum interns work directly with the students for the school year and receive direct supervision from ATC’s licensed and board certified therapists.

Community Service Practicum– ATC partners with local universities such as DePaul and Loyola University to provide internship positions for undergraduate students interested in gaining experience in non-profit business development and community outreach.

Art Therapy and Expressive Arts Internships– ATC provides a post-graduated internship for art therapy and counseling graduate students looking to gain experience in the field of art therapy and counseling and accrue hours for licensure.

Non-profit Business Internships– ATC provides a business internship for college and masters level graudates looking to gain experience in the non-profit sector.

Volunteer Program– ATC has a strong volunteer program for individuals who want to help paint a brighter figure for Chicago’s at-risk youth. We welcome adults and adolescents, professionals and students alike to join our team. Volunteer opportunities include:

  • Administrative and non-profit sector work
  • Connecting with others at ATC sponsored festivals and events
  • Event planning
  • Fund development and grant-writing
  • Graphics design and art making
  • Public relations and outreach
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Working with at-risk youth

Chalk Festival 3

“Make the connection. Paint a brighter future.”



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