What is arts therapy and in which ways can it help?

Arts therapy supports health and wellbeing by engaging creativity and the imagination within a therapeutic relationship. It not only cultivates the healing powers of imagination, but it also mobilizes the social engagement system through play, improvisation, movement, and creativity. 

The therapists within this directory are trained to practice in a trauma-informed way.  This means that they use a strengths-based framework that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasises physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment. 


Arts therapy works because it connects and energizes the systems of the brain and body in ways that enhance overall functioning whilst improving self-awareness and acceptance.  It can help people engage more fully in the present while deepening implicit and meaningful sensory-based communications. The holism of arts therapy means it aligns well with Māori models of health and well-being such as Te Whare Tapa Whā.


The creative process has more importance within the experience of arts therapy than the artistic product, and as such participation does not require any specific creative skill.



Currently, Arts Therapy West Coast has one  registered and clinically trained arts therapist within its service. Julie Dobson works with individuals and groups in many places including schools, hospitals, and private settings, depending on the needs of the people in their care.

The following outlines ways in which Arts Therapy is typically used to support people:

  • Release excess energy to reduce tension

  • Learn self-soothing behaviour to reduce tension, stress, and anxiety

  • Learn to manage strong feelings

  • Learn to problem-solve

  • Develop better communication skills

  • Attend to difficult memories and nightmares

  • Improve bodily awareness

  • Promote coping, and relaxation strategies

  • Promote mindfulness and a growth mindset

  • Develop skills to improve the ability to focus attention

  • Practice working with and exploring different emotions in a safe space

  • Practice using and exploring all senses through art-making

  • Develop, strengthen and integrate a sense of self

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ANZACATA explains arts therapy like this 

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