What Is Art Therapy?

Faculty Guest Blogger: Amy Bogdon, MA, ATR-BC, LPC

Amy Bogdon: The question, “What is Art Therapy?” is one that I have received many times! Many individuals deduct from the compound word that the meaning is to “use art in a therapeutic manner.” That definition would be correct, however, I feel there is so much more that can be said about the benefits of Art Therapy.

As artists we recognize how art is a powerful tool of expression – allowing us to communicate our thoughts and feelings that at times can be difficult to put into words. One of my favorite quotes is by Georgia O’Keeffe, and she states,

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keefe

Art Therapy recognizes this expressive ability and promotes using creativity to assist individuals with their struggles. Art Therapy can be utilized with a variety of populations and a variety of ages and stages of life.

I was drawn to the field of Art Therapy having recognized the therapeutic value of art in my own life, I now am able to assist others using this creative approach. As an Art Therapist I am currently working at a SWAN Affiliated Adoption Agency, assisting children through the adoption process, providing trauma therapy, and also creating “Life Books” with the children. Life Books are essentially trauma narratives in which the children create a scrap book about their lives. These books look to validate their early life experiences, process their traumatic memories, acknowledge the positive aspects in their life currently, and then to look to the future with positive goals they have for themselves. It is highly rewarding work to see a child who has been in foster care for an extended time find a “Forever Home.”

Another area in which I have been working is with the Studio Art Therapy Program for those struggling with epilepsy – “Studio e”. This program is offered in 47 cities across the United States. It allows individuals diagnosed with epilepsy to participate in an art based expressive program. Living with epilepsy can be a challenging experience, and the artists find commonality in the group experience. They are able to express how epilepsy has impacted their life, and they can gain a greater sense of self-esteem and emotional stability through the art process.

I enjoy sharing stories about my work with my students when teaching here at Marywood. My hope is that it will inspire them to love Art Therapy as I do. I do also try to create my own artwork, painting when I can, to keep my artist’s identity as well!

Please see “Art Therapy Without Borders”, an excellent social media site that promotes international Art Therapy news:


—Amy Bogdon, MA, ATR-BC, LPC
Adjunct Art Therapy Professor
Practicum Coordinator
Marywood University



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