It is the right-hemisphere-to-right-hemisphere, attuned, interpersonal qualities of the art therapy relationship that support art’s reparative powers. Ultimately, humans as a species have always repaired, recovered and healed within relationships, whether through social support or community or through relationships found in the formal services of a mental health or healthcare professional. So while art expression may bring about a sense of wellness in some sense, it’s the relational aspects that are at the center of reparation and recovery through well-targeted interventions– this is what defines and differientiates “art therapy.”
Granted, there will always be those who find art’s healing forces on their own, often in times of trauma, crisis or loss, or simply as a means to reduce stress. Most who are passionate about art therapy “the profession” discovered our calling because we have had our own transformative experiences with art. But without both the clear articulation of purposeful art-based interventions and specific relational dynamics that support these interventions, “art as therapy” and “art psychotherapy” are explanations without traction– leaving the public to come to its own conclusions about “what is art therapy” and defaulting to “it’s an art project” as the definition.