The short answer is no, art therapists do not interpret the clients artwork. Art therapy provides a rich environment where the client and therapist work collaboratively. Together they reflectively explore the art, no judgements are made and no leading questions are asked by the therapist.
The art is simply explored; often from many rotations and distances. The speed at which the client created may be considered, as may what it was like to create with the selected art materials and colours selected. Questions may include: what do you see? What did you create that you didn’t intend to create? What is missing? What might the title of this artwork be? There are no right or wrong answers, it’s a journeying together. The process of art therapy empowers the client to discover their own meaning-making and personal interpretation.
Swiss painter Paul Klee once wrote ‘Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.’ The art maker in a therapy session is simply making what was previously unknown, known. Though the concepts of signs and symbols have been explored by theorists in a wide variety of disciplines, a symbol placed with intent on a page is best explored and interpreted by the art maker. The art therapist may ask the client ‘What does that mean to you?’but does not give their own interpretation.
Art reveals. Art heals. Art helps us say the unsayables.