Art Therapy and Meditation

  • Duyen NguyenMaster in Science - MSci Human Biology, University of Birmingham


Art and creative therapies are a form of psychotherapy used to treat various mental health conditions. It differs from traditional talking therapies as it incorporates art activities within sessions. In the same way, art therapy provides an alternative outlet to express your feelings and emotions. In doing so, this therapy allows you to communicate your feelings which may otherwise be difficult to express simply with words alone.

Meditation can provide similar therapeutic effects as art therapy. This technique helps a person build awareness and sharpen their focus and attention. By bringing a greater sense of calm, meditation offers physical and psychological benefits such as releasing physical tension and reducing stress and anxiety. 

In more recent forms of art therapy, meditation and mindfulness are integrated into sessions. This particular type of treatment is known as mindfulness-based art therapy (MBAT).1,2 

This article will explain the basis of art therapy and meditation and how they are practised together for mindful self-expression and exploration.

Understanding art therapy

Throughout history, art has been used as a means of self-expression, entertainment, healing, and communication. It’s no wonder that doctors and researchers decided to implement art as a use of psychotherapy. However, the formalised practice of art therapy only became popular back in the 1940s as an alternative and more person-centred approach.3,4

This unique treatment uses creativity and imagination to facilitate your healing and growth. Art therapy takes a holistic approach to enable you to find your identity and express yourself freely.

Art therapy aims to:

  • Improve your interpersonal relationships
  • Increase cognitive, memory, and neurosensory capacities
  • Increase your self-acceptance and give you a better sense of fulfilment 
  • Heal trauma
  • Decrease stress and tension
  • Increase your insight and self-awareness5

Types of arts and creative therapies

This article will focus primarily on visual art therapy. However, please note that various other types of creative therapies are available. 

The main types are:

What is done during art therapy?

Art therapy sessions can be conducted individually or as part of a small group of participants. Your art therapist will provide you with materials to help you express your feelings or experiences through art. They may also support you by providing additional prompts or ideas. 

For group therapy, there may be a theme for each session. Activities may include:

  • Drawing
  • Sculpting
  • Painting
  • Printing
  • Pottery
  • Photography
  • Collaging5

The fundamental principle of art therapy is that your therapist is facilitating your growth and helping you heal through art. For this reason, they will not judge your art or tell you what it means. Instead, they guide you to identify what it might mean to you and help you understand how it makes you feel. The purpose of this treatment modality is not to analyse or solve the problem but to give you a safe space to express yourself freely.

In doing so, art therapy can enhance your mental well-being and self-acceptance. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and value when you explore and discover yourself through different art activities. Consequently, this enables you to improve your social interactions and interpersonal relationships. 

Please note, that you don’t need any previous experience in art to benefit from this treatment. People of all ages and backgrounds are welcome - you do not need to be skilled.

What can art therapy be used to treat?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends the use of art therapy for individuals with:

Research has shown that art therapy can be considered for other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. However, it is difficult to determine its significance and effectiveness due to the small number of participants used in these studies. For this reason, more research is required to confirm this.5

Overall, you may benefit from therapies that implement creative activities, as they can help you feel more comfortable and relieve any tension. Art therapy enables you to express your emotions and feelings, which may be difficult to convey through verbal communication. 

In this way, people who have undergone stressful or painful experiences may prefer to use this modality to address their concerns and trauma. Art therapy has also been used as an effective treatment for the following physical conditions:

How can I get art therapy?

The accessibility of art therapy services will depend on your location. Arts and creative therapies can be available through the NHS, charities, or a private therapist.

Always ensure your art therapist is qualified and registered with the relevant professional bodies. Art therapists should be registered under the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT). Registered art therapists in your area can be searched via the BAAT’s directory.

If you are more interested in the other types of creative therapies, their respective professional bodies are linked below:

Understanding meditation

Meditation is a collective term for practices that integrate focusing on your mind and body to achieve a more calm and relaxed state. There are a multitude of different ways to practise mediation. However, all forms aim to reduce your stress levels and help you gain inner peace. 

Meditation techniques bring you a greater sense of calm to ease any physical and mental tension you are experiencing. Mindfulness is one of the most popular forms of meditation. This technique stems from Buddhism and meditation, but in today’s society, mindfulness is practised by a wide variety of people regardless of their religion.1

Mindfulness aims to:

  • Increase your self-awareness
  • Make you feel calmer 
  • Reduce your stress
  • Improve your ability to make clear judgments and decisions
  • Enable you to respond to situations with a clearer mind
  • Build your self-acceptance by enabling you to be kinder to yourself

What can meditation be used to treat?

Meditation and mindfulness are helpful for common mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress. Some research studies also suggest the use of mindfulness for more complex conditions like psychosis and bipolar disorder

Other studies have suggested the use of meditation for:

It is important to note, that evidence is limited, and more research is needed to evaluate its effectiveness for the conditions mentioned above.

How do you meditate?

The NHS provides 2 audio guides on how to meditate:

This type of meditation focuses on helping you connect with your body and identify areas of tension and anxiety.

Breathing plays a huge part in meditation. By drawing attention to your breath, you can gain greater focus, and prevent yourself from lingering on troubling thoughts. Thereby relieving tension and reducing stress and anxiety.

Combining art therapy and meditation

Mindfulness-based art therapy

Mindfulness-based art therapy (MBAT) is a relatively novel form of art therapy, which was introduced by psychologist Laury Rappaport. As the name implies, MBAT incorporates mindfulness teaching and practice (e.g., meditation and yoga) with art therapy. The combination of mindfulness and art helps to encourage adaptive responses to stress and promotes your overall mental and physical well-being.2

Although the practice of MBAT is not as popular, there have been research studies conducted which have reported its effectiveness in alleviating symptoms of anxiety, stress and fatigue.9


How is art related to meditation?

Meditation and art can be used separately or in synergy to help you focus, reduce stress, and improve your mood through better self-awareness. Mindfulness-based art therapy enables you to be creative and more attentive to your mind. You become more focused on the present, without subliminal feelings or external factors overwhelming and clouding your judgement. 

What are the benefits of meditative art?

Art and meditation help to increase or improve your:

  • self-awareness
  • self-acceptance
  • self-expression
  • interpersonal relationships

What is the connection between mental health and art therapy?

Art therapy provides a safe and supportive environment to express yourself through art. This treatment works on the rationale that your mental health is improved via your freedom of artistic expression. Immersing yourself through art can feel liberating as you have a variety of creative mediums that enable your personal growth and self-acceptance, therefore helping you feel more focused and in control of your thoughts and emotions. 


Art therapy takes a holistic, person-centred approach that promotes individuals’ healing and recovery through creative expression. This treatment provides you with a supportive and safe environment to explore your feelings and emotions. It allows you to better understand and review any painful or traumatic past or present experiences through art.

Meditation brings your focus to the present by drawing your attention to your breath. It helps you relax and feel more calm by teaching you to remove and respond to any troubling thoughts that are causing stress and clouding your judgement. 

Ultimately, both art therapy and meditation serve as effective ways to explore difficult experiences and reduce psychological and physical stress. Together they facilitate your recovery and growth through enhanced self-awareness and a sense of agency, which thereby alleviates symptoms and improves your quality of life. 


  1. NCCIH [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 2]. Meditation and mindfulness: what you need to know. Available from: 
  2. Joshi AM, Mehta SA, Pande N, Mehta AO, Randhe KS. Effect of mindfulness-based art therapy (Mbat) on psychological distress and spiritual wellbeing in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Indian J Palliat Care [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2024 Feb 2];27(4):552–60. Available from: 
  3. Stuckey HL, Nobel J. The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. Am J Public Health [Internet]. 2010 Feb [cited 2024 Feb 2];100(2):254–63. Available from: 
  4. Vaartio-Rajalin H, Santamäki-Fischer R, Jokisalo P, Fagerström L. Art making and expressive art therapy in adult health and nursing care: A scoping review. Int J Nurs Sci [Internet]. 2020 Sep 28 [cited 2024 Feb 2];8(1):102–19. Available from: 
  5. Shukla A, Choudhari SG, Gaidhane AM, Quazi Syed Z. Role of art therapy in the promotion of mental health: a critical review. Cureus [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 2];14(8):e28026. Available from: 
  6. Bosman JT, Bood ZM, Scherer-Rath M, Dörr H, Christophe N, Sprangers MAG, et al. The effects of art therapy on anxiety, depression, and quality of life in adults with cancer: a systematic literature review. Support Care Cancer [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2024 Feb 2];29(5):2289–98. Available from: 
  7. Jalambadani Z. Art therapy based on painting therapy on the improvement of autistic children’s social interactions in Iran. Indian J Psychiatry [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2024 Feb 2];62(2):218–9. Available from: 
  8. Popa LC, Manea MC, Velcea D, Șalapa I, Manea M, Ciobanu AM. Impact of alzheimer’s dementia on caregivers and quality improvement through art and music therapy. Healthcare (Basel) [Internet]. 2021 Jun 9 [cited 2024 Feb 2];9(6):698. Available from: 
  9. Newland P, Bettencourt BA. Effectiveness of mindfulness-based art therapy for symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice [Internet]. 2020 Nov 1 [cited 2024 Feb 2];41:101246. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Duyen Nguyen

Master in Science - MSci Human Biology, University of Birmingham

Duyen is a creative and enthusiastic writer with an MSci in Human Biology. She has an extensive scientific background and is highly proficient in cancer biology and Drosophila genetics. Her research project investigated the importance of calcium transporters, Itpr and SERCA, in the regulation of apoptosis-induced proliferation. She is an aspiring medical writer and strives to create accessible and engaging content that effectively translates research to a range of audiences.

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