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Art Therapy in a Day Program for Adults with Disabilities

Updated: Apr 1

Two people connect hands with wrists to make a square formation. one person is an older adult while the other has younger hands. This shows how patient and client can work together when it comes to art therapy for Adults with Disabilities

Many community agencies around Ontario have started exploring how they can incorporate more creative therapeutic approaches into their adult day programs. Getting started with a creative therapeutic program is easier than you might think and this post is here to help! 

Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that integrates art-making and creative expression as a way to support individuals of all ages to safely express emotions, gain insights into the self, and improve overall well-being. Art therapy or other creative modalities can also help to improve accessibility to support by removing any pressure of what the art looks like and rather using the artistic process as a way to meet you where you are right now. 

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance” - Aristotle

Benefits of Art Therapy for Adults With Disabilities

Art therapy can be a particularly beneficial addition to an adult day program and can support your agency’s missions by:

  • Providing an enjoyable activity that feels new and engaging

  • Helping to bridge gaps in communication through verbal and non-verbal expression

  • Encourages collaboration and fosters opportunities for socialisation

  • Holds space for self-expression and encourages self-agency

  • Increases understanding of the participants' physical, mental, and emotional needs

  • Celebrates each participant's unique strengths, goals, and interests 

One also does not need to have any prior art experience to benefit from art therapy; it's a playful, sensory, and therapeutic process that focuses less on the result and more on the experience itself. Through this approach, the art therapy program holds a space of gratitude for the important voices of individuals with disabilities. 

A rainbow assortment of pencil crayons are all pointed towards a center point. Pencil crayons are often used in art therapy for Adults with Disabilities

Accessibility and Self-Agency

Improving accessibility for individuals with disabilities is an important act of accountability that we as a community must address. In consideration of how we can adapt our models of communication to overcome barriers that may impede the therapeutic experience, art therapy gives way for us to expand our ways of communicating, thus improving the effectiveness of therapy. For example, art making offers space for non-verbal communication, both through illustration and gesturing. This flexibility in communication can be more personable and less threatening to clients who have difficulty verbalizing or processing their feelings. For individuals with communication barriers, this act of accountability alone can promote a therapeutic experience that upholds genuine respect, understanding, and a more personalised form of support.


In the rush of today’s world, there is so much we can miss if we don't take the time to sit and listen to one another. And when we don’t make the time to listen, it can take away from someone’s ability to have a choice. Art therapy provides a designated space and time for clients to process life experiences or therapeutic goals at their pace, in a way in which they feel heard, and are active participants in their own healing process. In this way, art therapy can promote self-agency and complement the body’s natural ways of healing. 

Art therapy can also provide a safe and non-judgmental space for clients to explore their needs, goals, and preferences through creative self-expression. For many people, this can be a crucially meaningful experience that facilitates an increased sense of pride, self-esteem, and self-empowerment. When we believe we can and know that our self-knowledge is being honoured, we can dive deeper into the therapeutic journey and achieve some of our greatest goals.

A white sheet with stick figures on it plus paint in on a table. there is a plate with blue and purple paint splotches on it as well as an easel with an assortment of paint colours. Painting is an activity often used in art therapy for Adults with Disabilities

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

On a typical day, the art therapist helps to cultivate a positive atmosphere for all individuals (including your team) by fostering compassionate communication, psychoeducation, and an attuned listening ear as to what support would be most helpful for today. The art therapist’s goal is to provide a meaningful and enjoyable art therapy experience in the best interest of the client. This means that the art therapy services are to be provided to groups or individuals who would benefit from therapeutic support and with informed consent by the participating individuals. 

Art therapy can also be provided through group and individual sessions, depending on your patron's needs and preferences. Thus, sessions can be very flexible and suited to the individual needs of the client such as;

  • Where and when the session takes place,

  • How the client wants to engage in the creative process,

  • What the client would like to focus on or what is coming up for them today,

  • How it can support the client's therapeutic goals,

  • Improving accessibility to services.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about Art Therapy in a Day Program for Adults with Disabilities, get in touch with us! Want to see what a typical day would look like? Stay tuned as there will be a video coming soon sharing a “Day in the Life” video hosted by one of our partnering agencies!


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