What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conﬂicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.
Art therapy integrates the ﬁelds of human development, visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms), and the creative process with models of counseling and psychotherapy. Art therapy is used with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, groups, and families to assess and treat the following: anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems and disorders; substance abuse and other addictions; family and relationship issues; abuse and domestic violence; social and emotional difﬁculties related to disability and illness; trauma and loss; physical, cognitive, and neurological problems; and psychosocial difﬁculties related to medical illness. Art therapy programs are found in a number of settings including hospitals, clinics, public and community agencies, wellness centers, educational institutions, businesses, and private practices.
Art therapists are masters level professionals who hold a degree in art therapy or a related ﬁeld. Educational requirements include: theories of art therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy; ethics and standards of practice; assessment and evaluation; individual, group, and family techniques; human and creative development; multicultural issues; research methods; and practicum experiences in clinical, community, and/or other settings. Art therapists are skilled in the application of a variety of art modalities (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other media) for assessment and treatment.
*How Did Art Therapy Begin?
Visual expression has been used for healing throughout history, but art therapy did not emerge as a distinct profession until the 1940s. In the early 20th century, psychiatrists became interested in the artwork created by their patients with mental illness. At around the same time, educators were discovering that children's art expressions reﬂected developmental, emotional, and cognitive growth. By mid-century, hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers increasingly began to include art therapy programs along with traditional "talk therapies," underscoring the recognition that the creative process of art making enhanced recovery, health, and wellness. As a result, the profession of art therapy grew into an effective and important method of communication, assessment, and treatment with children and adults in a variety of settings.
Currently, the ﬁeld of art therapy has gained attention in health-care facilities throughout the United States and within psychiatry, psychology, counseling, education, and the arts. For more detailed information on the history of art therapy, please see AATA's publication list for A History of Art Therapy in the United States.
*Excerpt taken from The American Art Therapy Association’s website (arttherapy.org) 2008
Why ART therapy?
Art has the power to convey the unspeakable, sometimes much more profoundly and clearly than the spoken word. “We believe that art, as a means of symbolic expression, gives a particular form to that which is being experienced , expressed and communicated. Like language, art has its own structures and mechanisms for creating, shaping and concretizing ‘meaning’” (Evans & Dubowski 2001).
Through attunement and gentle informed interaction one can hope to identify the symptoms from the developmental milestones and begin to build new lines of
understanding and communication.
"I believe that the visual language of art has the ability to dialogue with the viewer in a much more profound way than through the written or spoken word alone. A visual image can sometimes speak volumes much more clearly than the spoken word, directly accessing one’s psyche and instinctual understanding of something. In other words, art can provide that avenue of expression for emotions or ideas that are too ‘big’ for words." (Alyssa L. Millard, MAAT,ATR)
Some Typical art therapy based goals for those with ASD
The way of working is tailored to the needs of each individual...
*Appropriate Social Interaction (like turn taking, sharing, eye contact, appropriate touching etc)
*Exploring and expressing emotion
* Developing strategies for managing stress and anxiety
*Developing verbal communication
*Developing the ability to be creative and spontaneous (developing the capacity for or access to imagination)
*Identifying , formulating and harnessing socially appropriate physical and emotional coping strategies
*Identifying and attempting to break through (and develop an understanding of) schema and stereotypical echolalic behaviors in order to increase tolerance
for change and dynamic environments and social situations
* Increase tolerance for sensory sensitivities especially textural and olfactory sensations but also to visual sensitivities (Auditory and issues with taste could be
assessed but are not as commonly addressed in the course of art therapy)
Myself with my husband, Chris and daughter Isabella!
Alyssa L. Millard, MAAT, ATR
For more information about Art Therapy, to schedule an appointment, or to find out how to bring Art Therapy to your group via
opportunities and/or art therapy workshops please contact Alyssa at
Also available for art therapy services in the Charleston area:
Charlotte A. Crosland, LPC, CACII, ATR-BC
Education: Charlotte Crosland graduated from the College of Charleston (Charleston, SC) in 1999 with a BS in Psychology. In 2004 Charlotte graduated from Southwestern College (Santa Fe, NM) with a Master's Degree in Art Therapy. Currently Charlotte is enrolled in the dissertation stage of Ph. D. program for Counselor Education and Supervision.
Experience: In New Mexico Charlotte facilitated open art studio sessions with Native Americans at a residential school. In 2004, Charlotte interned in Queensland, Australia working with Aboriginal children who had experienced sexual assault as well as working with adults and children in the Queensland area who experienced sexual abuse and domestic violence. Since 2004 Charlotte has been working in the Charleston, SC area focusing on addiction recovery with individuals who experience substance and behavioral addictions (gambling, eating and other compulsive disorders). In 2006 Charlotte started Intentions, LLC, a private practice to serve the community through art therapy and counseling. Through this setting Charlotte focuses on addiction counseling and working with children who are experiencing parental/caregiver separation/divorce. Through private practice setting, the need to extend services and resources to community became more evident, leading Charlotte to found the nonprofit, ARTformation, in 2014. Charlotte also facilitates professional trainings, clinical supervision, teaching, and consultation.
Certifications: Charlotte is a nationally recognized, Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC), Certified Addiction Counselor (CACII), Licensed Counselor
Alyssa’s Education and Experience
Alyssa L Millard, graduated from the College of Charleston (Charleston,SC) in 1998 with a BA in studio art. She began life as a studio and collections manager in addition to being a personal assistant to an aging elderly artist. She went back to school and graduated, again from the College of Charleston (Charleston, SC) in 2003 with a BS in Psychology. She graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL) in 2006 with a Master’s in Art Therapy. She is a registered art therapist with The Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. and active member of the national Art Therapy Association, The American Art Therapy Association.
As an art therapist, she has spent time working intensively in an adolescent boy’s group home, in inner city Chicago. She has also worked within a residential care facility in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. Upon returning to the Charleston area, Alyssa worked in a preschool with an age range of 6 weeks to 5 years, as an art therapist, art educator and assistant director. She currently works for The Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired of Charleston as well as for The Lowcountry Autism Foundation (LAF) in partnership with MUSC’s Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Department, as a behavioral art therapist and has her own private practice, Nurturing Arts.
Alyssa is also an active artist who mainly works as a printmaker, painter and jewelry enthusiast. However, she is familiar with a variety of art media, including, but not limited to: sculpture, sewing, photography,and more!