The term art therapy became slightly blurred when adult colouring in books came on trend. People began associating art therapy with any crafty undertaking done by anyone. While colouring in, painting and other crafty activities all have a soothing and therefore therapeutic effect, they are not art therapy. A more correct definition should be the term art as therapy, rather than art therapy. Doing a creative activity is no substitute for experiential art making in a therapeutic setting by a qualified art therapist.
Art therapy is undertaken in a specific safe space, it has an intention or goal for physical, mental or emotional change or relief, gaining of insight or exploration of life experiences. The process of therapeutic art expression often brings amelioration in the physiological, mental or emotional realms. Art therapy includes opportunity for meaning making during or after the art process, and it never relies on the artistic outcome. Art therapy does not hold to rules about staying inside lines, choosing colours for a pleasing outcome, nor does it follow design principles. Art therapy maybe squiggly lines, shapes or forms or a thumb print pushed into clay.