What is Arts Psychotherapy?

Arts Psychotherapy is a type of counselling that uses various art mediums as primary tools of communication to help people explore their thoughts feelings and emotions about many of life’s challenges.

This type of therapy can be a powerful means of self-development for people of all ages and can be especially useful for those who find it difficult to verbalise their feelings. It is a helpful tool to assist people to externalize their pain and they often become aware of a different perspective of their issue which heightens their awareness.

This type of therapy can be a powerful means of self-development for people of all ages. It can be especially useful for those who find it difficult to verbalise their feelings.

Credible Governing Bodies For Arts Psychotherapy:
PACFA (Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia)

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia is a national peak body for counsellors and psychotherapists and for professional associations in the counselling and psychotherapy field in Australia. Our mission is to represent the profession to communities and government, and to develop the evidence-base relating to the art and practice of counselling and psychotherapy. PACFA is a valuable mental health resource for the community. They run a register of qualified practitioners and provide information on counselling and psychotherapy. PACFA’s research agenda aims to build the evidence-base for the effectiveness  of Counselling and Psychotherapy.
PACFA have an Evidence-Based Practice Statement (https://www.pacfa.org.au/)

*Caroline Albrighton is the Director of U B Free Counselling & Arts Psychotherapy Services and is a registered member of PACFA and CCAA.

All Member Associations of PACFA require the same essential competency in counselling: a 3 year degree in counselling, 200 hours internship, ongoing clinical supervision and professional development, and commitment to a Code of Ethics.

CCAA Inc. is a Constituent Member Association of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia Inc. (PACFA).

According to PACFA:
A Draft Psychotherapy Definition of What is Arts Psychotherapy?:

Psychotherapy is the comprehensive and intentional treatment of psychosocial, psychosomatic and behavioural disturbances or states of suffering by evidence-based psychotherapeutic processes, with the aim of relieving internal resistances to change and to promote the maturation, development and health of the treated person.

What issues does the psychotherapist explore?

Like psychologists, psychotherapists deal with issues of the mind. Psychotherapists and clients work together to understand conscious aspects of the present lived experience of the client as well as bringing the aspects into consciousness.

A key element of the practice of psychotherapy is the interpersonal relationship between the therapist and the client. The therapist/client interaction provides the relational encounter through which the client becomes aware of their repeated patterns and ways of relating and develops the ability to identify their needs and mobilise to meet those needs in contemporary life.

What issues does the psychotherapist deal with?

Many people come to a psychotherapist because they are experiencing discomfort, dissatisfaction, behavioural disturbances or suffering in their lives. Some clients are seeking connection, revitalisation, increased creativity or a deeper exploration of issues that they may have been functionally helped with by other professionals.

Psychotherapists work with people who have a wide range of presenting concerns: depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, self-harm, illness, addiction, grief, trauma, abuse, relationship difficulties in personal life or at work, communication, intimacy and commitment problems, etc.

What outcomes may be expected?

Psychotherapy supports a process of change. A person may come to understand patterns of discomfort, dissatisfaction or suffering in their life. They may make meaning from this and be more able to make conscious choices that lead to different experience of themselves and the world. A person can develop a greater capacity to be in charge of their life, empowered and self-directing, and experience increasing joy, meaning, peace of mind, purposefulness, insight and self-knowledge.

The process of psychotherapy addresses symptom reduction in a person’s life. In addition, it goes further and addresses the cause of longstanding patterns, supporting improved functioning. It can promote integration of trauma and the responses that emerge in clients’ emotional reactions, thoughts, and behaviours.

What training are Psychotherapists required to have?

A Psychotherapist will have completed a substantial, experiential professional training, in at least one psychotherapeutic modality (counselling) which draws on an established theoretical base. Psychotherapy trainees engage substantially in their own process of psychotherapy and close supervision throughout their learning. The training curriculum will have included extensive practical clinical skills and the integration of theories of psychotherapy, human development, human relations and human diversity. A sound familiarity with relevant current research in psychotherapy and rigorous ethical discernment are important components of training in the profession of psychotherapy.

Psychotherapists continue supervision, professional development, personal psychotherapy work and involvement in a community of psychotherapists throughout their professional life. Psychotherapists abide by a Code of Ethics for professional practice.


What Is Psychoanalytic Therapy?

Psychoanalysis frequently involves looking at early childhood experiences in order to discover how these events might have shaped the individual and how they contribute to current actions. Psychoanalysts believe that childhood events and unconscious feelings, thoughts, and motivations play a role in mental illness and maladaptive behaviours. People undergoing psychoanalytic therapy often meet with their therapist at least once a week. Through this process, the hope is that people will be able to gain insight and awareness of the unconscious forces that contribute to their current mental state. Gaining insight into your feelings, behaviours, and experiences can help you better understand the unconscious forces that continue to exert and influence on your actions, your relationships, and your sense of self. Psychoanalytic therapy may also help you learn techniques for coping when future problems arise. Rather than falling back on unhealthy defences, you may be better able to recognize your feelings and deal with them in a constructive manner. The therapist offers an empathetic and nonjudgmental environment where the client can feel safe in revealing feelings or actions that have led to stress and difficulties in his or her life.

Often, simply sharing these burdens in the context of a therapeutic relationship can have a beneficial influence. Furthermore, it has been shown that this type of self-examination can lead to continued emotional growth over time.

People who are likely to benefit from this form of therapy are often those who have been experiencing symptoms for some time, however some issues may pop-up randomly. Long-term symptoms of anxiety, depressed mood, and behaviours that have a negative impact on functioning and enjoyment of life are some possible reasons why people might choose to try psychoanalytic therapy.

Studies have shown: psychoanalytic treatment led to lasting improvements in symptoms of somatic symptoms, depressive symptoms, and anxiety symptoms.

Psychoanalytic Therapy Leads to Lasting Improvements

A 2010 review published in American Psychologist found that the scientific evidence supports that psychodynamic therapy was as effective as other evidence-based treatments. Patients who receive psychoanalytic treatment retain these gains and may continue to improve even after treatment ends.

How Does Psychoanalysis Differ From Other Treatments

What makes psychoanalytic therapy different from other forms of treatment? A review of the research comparing psychodynamic approaches to cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) identified seven features that set the psychoanalytic approach apart.

  1. The focus on emotions and how they are expressed. Where CBT is centered on cognitions and behaviors, psychoanalytic therapy explores the full range of emotions that a patient is experiencing.
  2. The exploration of avoidance. People often avoid certain feelings, thoughts, and situations that they find Understanding what patients are avoiding can help the therapist and client better explore why such avoidance comes into play.
  3. The identification of recurring patterns and themes in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In some cases, people are aware of such repetitious actions but may be unable to break out of these unhealthy or destructive patterns. At other times, patients are not aware of how such patterns influence their behaviors.
  4. The emphasis on talking about past experiences. Other therapies often focus more on the here-and-now, or how current thoughts and behaviors influence how a patient functions. The psychoanalytic approach helps the patient explore their past and understand how it affects both the present and future.
  5. The exploration of interpersonal relationships. Through the therapy process, patients are able to explore their relations with others, both current and past.
  6. The focus on the therapy relationship itself. Because psychoanalytic therapy is so personal, the relationship between the therapist and the patient is an important part of the treatment process.
  7. Exploring the patient’s fantasy life. Where other therapies are often highly structured and goal-oriented, psychoanalytic therapy allows the patient to explore freely. Patients are free to give voice to fears, desires, dreams, and other urges that they have never spoken of before.

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