People with schizophrenia often have a difficult time communicating thoughts and feelings. Sometimes they feel threatened, isolate themselves, and avoid social interactions. Although standard treatment options such as medication and psychotherapy can improve these symptoms, they don’t take them away completely. As a result, experts look to other types of treatment. Some believe that art therapy, used in addition to standard treatment options, may provide benefits to people with schizophrenia. How Art Therapy Works Facilitated by an art therapist, this therapy is a way people can express themselves creatively. Art therapy is usually conducted in a group setting in which patients paint, draw, sculpt, and participate in other artistic activities. The therapist can later assess a person’s artwork to gain insight into his or her world. Benefits to People with Schizophrenia People with schizophrenia tend to resist standard treatment. They may suffer from a lack of interest in many things and tend to isolate themselves. In art therapy, people can explore their feelings in a non-confrontational way. They can also gain social skills and feel better about themselves. Some studies regarding the effect of art therapy on people with schizophrenia have found it can: Increase self-esteem Reduce negative symptoms, such as lack of motivation, lack of drive, and lack of communication Reduce social and emotional withdrawal Art therapy also can help people with schizophrenia better understand their thoughts and feelings. For example, people may be willing to illustrate their frustrations and feelings through art instead of them talking them through with a counselor or acting on them. Conflicting Recommendations Current national guidelines for treating schizophrenia include the use of art therapy. The guidelines state that providers should consider offering art therapy to all schizophrenia patients to help alleviate negative symptoms. However, not all researchers agree that the therapy can help people with schizophrenia. Others advocate different alternative treatments, such as exercise, to improve negative symptoms. One study found that people undergoing weekly art therapy sessions did not show improvements in functioning or mental health. The researchers did say, however, that the therapy may be beneficial if used along with other treatments. Although the benefits of art therapy are still debated, most experts agree it can improve social interaction with others. Ask your loved one’s doctor about art therapy groups in your area. Key Takeaways: Facilitated by an art therapist, therapy is usually conducted in a group setting in which patients paint, draw, sculpt, and participate in other artistic activities. The therapist can later assess a person’s artwork to gain insight into his or her world. Some studies have found that art therapy can increase self-esteem, reduce negative symptoms, and reduce social and emotional withdrawal in people with schizophrenia. Current national guidelines for treating schizophrenia include the use of art therapy.