Art Therapy

A child naturally communicates through art and play. But, it can be hard to talk about one’s feelings surrounding a diagnosis, treatment, and hospital stay.

The art therapy program at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh helps children express experiences and feelings that they can’t put in words.

Art therapists are professionals who have training in clinical skills and art therapy theories. They use art materials and the art-making process to improve the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of children and their families.

Although there can be an educational part of art therapy, the focus is on the creative process. Art can help children express themselves to work through pain, fear, stress, and other emotions.

How Art Therapy Can Help Your Child

Making art can help:

  • Cope with and accept the challenges of a diagnosis, treatment, and hospital stay.
  • Enhance self-esteem and confidence.
  • Reduce and manage stress, fear, pain, and other feelings around treatment, diagnosis, and hospitalization.
  • Support decision making to regain a sense of control, including advocating for care.
  • Stimulate and explore the mind and body.
  • Connect with others and increase social skills.

The Art Therapy Process

We encourage kids to explore a range of art materials and create artwork to express themselves and their experiences and feelings.

While your child engages in the creative process, the art therapist offers support.

At times in a session, we may ask your child about his or her art-making process and artwork. Other times, we may only talk to you and your child, and not engage in the creative process.

Most often, both art-making and conversing will happen throughout the session.

Art therapists have the training to honor the creative process. They know the best way to connect with children to help them cope and heal.

Seeking an Educational Opportunity in Art Therapy?

The art therapy program at UPMC Children’s Hospital offers:

  • Job shadowing for students and others.
  • Part-time art therapy education for both graduate and undergraduate students.

Learn more about art therapy education at UPMC Children's.

Who can take part in art therapy and how can I sign up?

Any patients currently admitted to UPMC Children’s can take part in art therapy.

Art therapy is a consult-based service. Anyone on your care team can refer your child to the program.

Do I need to be “artistic” or know how to paint, draw, sculpt, etc. to take part in art therapy?

You or your child don't need any artistic knowledge or talent to take part in art therapy. Our art therapists use the art materials, art-making process, and final art piece to help reach medical and mental health goals.

How old must my child be to qualify for art therapy services?

Most art therapy sessions focus on kids ages 3 and up.

But, our art therapists tailor services to meet the needs of each child. They'll assess your child's development level and medical and mental health goals to decide if art therapy will be helpful.

Who else can take part in art therapy?

Both patients and their loved ones can enjoy the benefits of art therapy services.

Our art therapists support UPMC Children's mission of family-centered care. While focused on your child's healing, we can also provide family-based sessions to support all those involved.

Is there a cost for art therapy at UPMC Children’s?

Art therapy is free, thanks to the support of UPMC Children’s and our generous community partners.

Since we don't charge for art therapy services, we do not bill insurance plans.

How can I help the art therapy program?

You can help support the art therapy program at UPMC Children’s by donating brand-new art materials.

We use a lot of:

  • Crayons
  • Paper
  • Markers
  • Paintbrushes
  • Play-Doh
  • Model Magic®
  • And more