What is Art Therapy

Art therapy is a relatively young therapeutic discipline. It first began around the mid-20th Century, arising independently in English-speaking and European areas. In England, as in the United States, the roots of art therapy lay mainly in art education, the practice of art, and developmental psychology.​


According to David Edwards, an art therapist in Britain, “(n)umerous and often conflicting definitions of art therapy have been advanced since the term, and later the profession, first emerged in the late 1940's (Waller and Gilroy, 1978).” Edwards states, “in the UK, the artist Adrian Hill is generally acknowledged to have been the first person to use the term ‘art therapy’ to describe the therapeutic application of image making.​

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For Hill, who had discovered the therapeutic benefits of drawing and painting while recovering from tuberculosis, the value of art therapy lay in ‘completely engrossing the mind (as well as the fingers) … [and in] releasing the creative energy of the frequently inhibited patient’ (Hill, 1948: 101–102). This, Hill suggested, enabled the patient to ‘build up a strong defence against his misfortunes’ (Hill, 1948: 103).” So, the birth of art therapy goes back to the painter, Adrian Hill, who suggested artistic work to his fellow inpatients, while he was treated in a tuberculosis (T.B.) sanatorium. That began his artistic work with patients, which was documented in 1945 in his book, Art Versus Illness.
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Around the same time as Hill and Adamson, Margaret Naumburg, a psychologist in the United States, also began to use the term “Art therapy” to describe her work.

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