What does culture mean in Art therapy

To create a therapeutic alliance with a client, the art therapist needs to be sensitive to the cultural differences which can bias the relationship.


Barriers such as language and others may influence the treatment and possibly contribute to a client’s early termination from therapy. Consideration of the use of art materials and gives attention to products and/or processes during art therapy with the client.

It is by exploring these issues that art therapists can possibly discover an individualized technique that will best benefit their clients who may have different cultural values, beliefs, and traditions.

Culturally competent art therapists possess knowledge and understanding about how oppression, racism, classism, sexism, discrimination, and stereotyping affect them collectively, personally, and in their work.

Culture is complex and affects many of the interactions that take place within the school
the setting, and aspects of non-dominant culture have been found to coincide with an increased risk of mental health needs (Hays, 2016; Iacovino, Jackson, & Oltmanns, 2014; Brown et.al., 2013).
These include more adverse effects of trauma, chemical dependency, and chronic physical and mental illness (Hays, 2016; Iacovino, Jackson, & Oltmanns, 2014; Brown et.al., 2013).


Art therapists must investigate their personal identity, their own race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, age, acculturation, gender, gender identity/expression, religion, socioeconomic status, political views, sexual orientation, geographic region, physical capacity, physical, mental, or developmental disability, and historical experiences with the dominant culture and how it personally and professionally affects their definition and biases of normality/abnormality and the process of art therapy.


Culturally competent art therapists possess knowledge about their social impact upon others. They are knowledgeable about differences in styles of communications with respect to self-disclosure, nonverbal behavior, directness, respect, and assertiveness. Art therapists recognize how their unexamined assumptions can negatively impact the therapeutic relationship and the art therapy process.

Art therapists are increasingly offering their services in international contexts.

Although usually altruistic in nature, unexamined practices can result in detrimental consequences to both the travelers and host communities. A consideration of the ethical dilemmas that one might face can better orient art therapists to the many aspects of offering art therapy abroad.


Preparation for cross-cultural work in international contexts entails assessing motivations, developing cultural competence, and ensuring sustainable practices. While in country, there are considerations pertaining to art materials, studio space, service delivery, artworks, roles, positions of power, and consent.

Throughout the experience, examination of accountability to multiple stakeholders, including through reporting and fund-raising, is crucial. A critical look at the ethics and values involved in providing art therapy internationally can help ensure that art therapists offer global services with integrity.


Determining one’s cultural identity cannot be done in a linear fashion. Hayes (2016) asserts that culture is a complex notion that comprises many different facets, not just ethnicity and race. The ADDRESSING framework was developed in order to help therapists consider the multiple facets of cultural identity, which include age, disability, religion, ethnic or racial identity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, indigenous heritage, national origin, and gender (Hays, 2016).

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