HomeAbout Art TherapyAbout UsFor ProfessionalsEventsContact UsUseful Links  

HomeAbout Art TherapyAbout UsFor ProfessionalsChildren & Young PeopleStroke SurvivorsOlder AdultsCarersNeuro-rehabEventsContact UsUseful Links

For Professionals Working with Older Adults

The Art Therapy Space has worked with a range of older adults, including people with dementia, stroke and community day services.


The National Service Framework for Older People (Department of Health, March 2001) emphasises the need to support the mental health needs of older people, including carers (Standard 7) and the need to improve the quality of life of older people and their carers (Standard 8).  It also highlights the importance of providing “evidence based complementary therapies that support emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being.” (pg 26) and the need “to anticipate, recognise and treat any psychological distress experienced by the older person, carer or their family.” (pg 26)

The service development guide Everybody’s Business (CISP, November 2005) clarifies the importance of providing psychological therapy to older adults, citing 12-15% of people over 65 suffer from depression and that dementia affects one in 20 of people over 65 and 1 in 5 of people over the age of 80.  It states that is committed to “Ensuring that access to psychological therapies is determined by need, not age.” (pg 2)  and considers that “psychological therapies as a matter of routine when assessing mental health problems.” (pg 3).

BBC news (May, 1999) reports that Art Therapy is a recognised intervention in the treatment of people suffering from dementia.  Evidence has shown considerable improvement in symptoms and with depression.


Why Art Therapy with Older Adults?  

Many older adults experience significant changes and traumas during this period of their lives; art therapy provides a means to come to terms with these and their current circumstances.  Through active engagement the process can erode barriers allowing powerful feelings to be released and the chance to live a fuller and healthier life.

The art in Art Therapy is used as the primary form of communication; the materials providing a way for the person to express their thoughts and feelings through the images they make.  Therefore the making art in Art Therapy has a different purpose from painting in a recreational or occupational therapy group.

Art Therapy is not dependent on spoken language and can therefore be helpful to anyone who finds it difficult to express their thoughts and feelings verbally, or speaks English as their second language. 


Who can benefit?

Individuals who are experiencing any of the following can benefit through this intervention:

Loss of dependency

Loss of memory

Physical disability

Physical or mental illness

End of life care





Relationship difficulties

Individuals may present as withdrawn or anxious, tearful, angry, depressed, moody, violent or disaffected. 

Art Therapy with older adults fosters a significant increase in the individual’s calmness, sociability, physical involvement and mental acuity. After attending Art Therapy for a period of time clients display a significant decrease in their depression scoring.

Through continuity, memory recall is increased leading to clients demonstrating an ability to reclaim their identity through reminiscence.

Art Therapy aims to improve self esteem by offering choices and facilitates an arena to explore their difficulties, feelings and issues common to this client group of loneliness, loss and dependency.  

Clients develop their abilities to more readily express themselves and their needs.  Clients can also develop heightened concentration and focus. 

Through group work, clients are able to enhance their awareness of others and are able to become more sociable through interaction.  This has proved to have an affect on attitudes outside the sessions, with clients feeling less isolated, anxious and agitated.


Art Therapy in Practice

Through referral we can provide either individual or group Art Therapy, on a weekly basis for a designated period of time.

Individuals referred to an Art Therapist do not need to have had previous experience or skill in art. The Art Therapist is not primarily concerned with making an aesthetic or diagnostic assessment of the art work.

Throughout the course of Art Therapy we liaise regularly with staff and key workers for any ongoing concerns.  We are able to contribute to the care team’s assessment of the individual through initial and continuous assessment and are able to contribute to reviews and multi-professional meetings.

We are also able to support both staff and families within the setting through supervision and therapeutic workshops.


Please contact us if you would like to discuss any particular needs.

Useful Links














Images © 2008 Nicky Sutton & Laura Butt