What is Art Therapy? – Information for service users

On this page you will find information about art therapy this includes what it is and what the benefits can be.

This leaflet may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without the permission of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

  • What is art therapy?

    Art therapy involves using art and discussion with an art psychotherapist. Using art materials can help you to express your thoughts and feelings and it can provide another way of communicating when it is hard to talk. You do not have to be good at art; the aim is not to improve your skills.

    In art therapy you will have time to talk and think about your difficulties with the art psychotherapist and it may help you to understand yourself better, gain insight and for change to occur.

    Art therapy focuses on your feelings and how they affect your life so it can make you feel emotional during and after a session.

    Art therapy takes place as individual one to one sessions or within group settings.

  • What are the benefits of art therapy?

    • It may help you communicate when you cannot talk about your feelings and difficulties.
    • Taking part in creative activities can improve self-esteem and confidence.
    • Making artwork about how you feel may help better understanding of your emotions, and how you might cope with them.
    • Through discussion with the art psychotherapist, you may gain a better understanding of yourself, your strengths and the challenges you face.
    • It can improve your relationships.
    • It may help you make links between past experience and what is going on for you now.

  • Will the work I do be confidential?

    The artwork made in art therapy and any information shared with the art psychotherapist will be treated as confidential. Health professionals who are part of the team involved in your treatment will be kept informed of your progress. Your art psychotherapist may talk with you about the need for written reports, letters, and summaries of the work to communicate with others involved in your care.

    All information regarding your treatment is held in accordance with the Caldicott principles, which protects the use of information about service users.

    Some details of your care may be recorded either on paper or on computer systems; this information is strictly governed by the Data Protection Act and only accessible by authorised personnel. If you would like more information about this please ask your art psychotherapist.

    There may be times when we need to share information that you have shared in art therapy without your consent. This would only occur if you or another person may be at risk.

  • How can I be referred to the Art Therapy

    In the Community
    Please contact your Care- Co-ordinator, who will be able to check if there is an Art Psychotherapist in your area, and then make a referral if appropriate.

    Whilst in hospital
    Please speak with any of the inpatient team and they will be able to advise you if there is an Art Psychotherapist in the service and arrange an initial meeting.

  • Assessment

    Following your initial meeting you may meet for several session on an assessment, or a ‘taster’ basis. This is so the Art Psychotherapist can assess your current needs and together you can decide if therapy is appropriate and if so, identify the difficulties you would like to work on in art therapy.

    When beginning an art therapy assessment, you will be encouraged to explore the art materials.

    You may identify some goals of therapy with your art psychotherapist. You will also negotiate together how frequently you will meet, and how long sessions will be.

  • Discharge

    Inpatient Care
    When you are discharged from hospital your art therapy may end. Sometimes you may be offered some follow up session in the community, however it depends whether there is an Art Psychotherapist in your area. The art psychotherapist will try to discuss and plan this with you and your care team before you leave hospital.

    Community Care
    If you have art psychotherapy sessions in the community, there is usually more of an opportunity to discuss with your art psychotherapist and plan when you will be discharged from Art psychotherapy.

    In both setting discharge from art psychotherapy may also come about if you frequently fail to attend appointment without notice.

    On discharge your art psychotherapist may provide you with a letter, or report summarising the work done in art therapy. This may also be shared with other members of your care team.

  • Artwork

    The artwork you make in art therapy is yours, although the Art psychotherapist may suggest that it be stored securely on a CNTW site while therapy is in progress. When the art therapy ends it is your choice to take your artwork with your or leave it with the art psychotherapist. If you choose to leave your artwork it would be confidentially disposed of.

  • Will travel expenses be reimbursed?

    If you are travelling to attend art therapy in the community or at The Hadrian clinic and are currently received one of the following benefits:
    • income based job seekers allowance
    • income support
    • working families tax credit
    • disabled persons tax credit

    you will be able to get financial help with your travel expenses.

  • For more information

    For more general information about art therapy visit www.baat.org

  • References

    British Association of Art Therapists www.baat.org

  • What if I have a comment, suggestion, compliment or complaint about the service?

    If you want to make a comment, suggestion, compliment or complaint you can:
    • talk to the people directly involved in your care
    • ask a member of staff for a feedback form, or complete a form on the Trust website www.cntw.nhs.uk (click on the ‘Contact Us’ tab)
    • telephone the Complaints Department 0191 245 6672
    • email [email protected] Please note that information sent to the Trust via email is sent at your own risk
    • We are always looking at ways to improve services. Your feedback allows us to monitor the quality of our services and act upon issues that you bring to our attention.
    You can provide feedback in the following ways:
    – the quickest way for you to do this is to complete our short online survey at
    – complete a Points of You survey, available from staff.

  • Other formats, references and review

    Further information about the content, reference sources or production of this leaflet can be obtained from the Patient Information Centre.

    This information can be made available in a range of formats on request (eg Braille, audio, larger print, easy read, BSL or other languages). Please contact the Patient Information Centre Tel: 0191 246 7288

    Published by the Patient Information Centre
    2021 Copyright, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
    Ref, PIC/478/1221 December 2021 V6
    www.cntw.nhs.uk Tel: 0191 246 7288
    Review date 2024