top of page

The Person-Centered Approach within Art Therapy

You may often be faced with navigating and understanding all the various theoretical approaches to therapy, cognitive behavioral, existential, music therapy, solution focused and so on. This can truly be an overwhelming process to understand what is right for your child, teen or even yourself. In this post, we will navigate the Person-Centered Approach within the Art Therapy method and help define what it is and how it can be useful.

The primary goal of this approach is to promote individuals to engage in their life and actions in a more autonomous, spontaneous and confident manner. Its primary focus is to uncover and surface the individual’s inner strengths to solve their own struggles, issues or situations that has brought them to therapy. It is an approach stimulated in empowerment and allowing more trust in their inner capabilities. Person centered also hinges on the belief that expression will allow for a healthier life style than the more typical human response of repression and masking the problems at hand. When collaborating person centered with art therapy, what often occurs is complete and total free self-expression that then identifies areas of want, need, loss, hope and fulfillment.

How often do you allow yourself to freely self-express? This is a concept that can often be feared due to the unknown but also due to the statement “well I’m not an artist”. It is not important to define yourself as an artist to create art, every single line, shape, color, motion or being we create on a surface is a representation or extension of who we are and how we define ourselves. A great example and possible exploration for you to try is identifying four emotions, separating out a piece of paper into four blocks and then creating each emotion by only using lines, shapes, movements and colors. An abstract image essentially of parts of you. Once you are able to externalize these various parts, feelings or thoughts they can feel less overwhelming and you can feel more powerful over these elements. Transitioning that power to yourself and away from these strong feelings and seeing they are merely parts of you and not definitions can evoke a new sense of confidence and strength to respond back to the anxiety, depression or overthinking that has continuously overpowered your frame of mind.

I have provided a personal example of forming emotion representations through utilizing lines, shapes, motion and colors. Please note: this is a representation of my own emotions, not a generalized representation of how these emotions feel.


  1. Malchiodi, Cathy. The Handbook of Art Therapy, Second edition. 2011

  2. McNiff, Shaun. Art Heals: How Creativity Heals the Soul. 2004

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Categories
bottom of page