According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) art therapy "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."
In an art therapy session, you might draw with pastels or markers, look for an image in a random scribble, use clay to pound or build, or cut and paste with collage to tell a story. In art therapy it is not important to be an artist or even have artistic skills, but to have a desire to create and an interest to explore metaphor and personal imagery. Therapy is happening simply through the art making process. We can also use the art to explore concerns and as a way to access and express unconscious feelings.
There are numerous advantages to using art therapy when working with trauma. When a person has experienced trauma it often is difficult to even find words to describe the situation, resulting in a state of "speechless terror." Art can bypass problems with verbal language and allow the expression to evolve from the unconscious or implicit memory which is where trauma is naturally stored. Clients find working with imagery is helpful as answers to problems often emerge through manipulation of the materials. Pounding clay, tearing paper and creating new stories through the art making process is quite beneficial to the healing process. Art making can also be a pleasurable experience that can enhance strengths and coping skills.