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Art Therapy with Groups

In the field of Art Therapy, we are very often involved in group work. There are many factors that help us define our groups and customize them for the art making process. Often, we are faced with the challenges of addressing the needs of each client, yet we should remember that we are treating the group as a whole as well. Group therapy can be a very powerful process with the right chemistry of participants……

What is Group Therapy?


Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves one or more therapists working with several people at the same time. This type of therapy is widely available at a variety of locations, including private therapeutic practices, hospitals, mental health clinics and community centers. Group therapy is sometimes used alone, but it is also commonly integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes individual therapy and medication.

The Principles of Group Therapy In The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Irvin D. Yalom outlines the key therapeutic principles that have been derived from self-reports from individuals who have been involved in the group therapy process:


The instillation of hope:

The group contains members at different stages of the treatment process. Seeing people who are coping or recovering gives hope to those at the beginning of the process.


Being in a group of people experiencing the same things helps people see that what they are going through is universal and that they are not alone.
Imparting information: Group members are able to help each other by sharing information.


Group members are able to share their strengths and help others in the group, which can boost self-esteem and confidence.
The corrective recapitulation of the primary family group: The therapy group is much like a family in some ways. Within the group, each member can explore how childhood experiences contributed to personality and behaviors. They can also learn to avoid behaviors that are destructive or unhelpful in their real life.

Development of socialization techniques:

The group setting is a great place to practice new behaviors. The setting is safe and supportive, allowing group members to experiment without the fear of failure.

Imitative behavior:

Individuals can model the behavior of other members of the group or observe and imitate the behavior of the therapist.

Interpersonal learning:

By interacting with other people and receiving feedback from the group and the therapist, each individual can gain a greater understanding of himself or herself.

Group cohesiveness:

Because the group is united in a common goal, members gain a sense of belonging and acceptance.


Sharing feelings and experiences with a group of people can help relieve pain, guilt or stress.

Existential factors:

While working within a group offers support and guidance, group therapy helps member realize that they are responsible for their own lives, action and choices.


Art Therapy Approaches in Groups


1. Individual art making with sharing projects or artwork is created by each participant
2. Separate parts that are part of the whole- each participant create a piece for the larger work
3. Collaborative art making-members work together on one art piece
4.  “Open Studio” approach- An art studio where client create more free and work at their own pace
5. Directive vs. Non-Directive- A Directive approach is where the art work has a structure or “direction”
6.  “Processing” and insight through the artwork (talking about work with others)

Group Projects


 Murals- large art pieces done on walls  Large designs- (example: making leaves for a tree)
 Designing a scene- group creates together
 Other collaborative art

Types of Art Therapy Groups/ Approaches


 Based on condition, age or diagnosis
 In a facility, as part of treatment plan
 Voluntary- persons seek out the group for well-being
 Children’s groups: behavioral, emotional, medical condition, loss and bereavement
 Groups within school settings- developed by teaching staff and/or school counselors
 Groups in wellness centers

Video Clips of Group Art Therapy




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