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An art therapy app providing reliable and meaningful online art therapy experiences for therapists and clients


Jan - May 


Thesis Project


Cyan Guan

Yueh-Chun Chao



Interaction Design
UI Design
Brand Design
Video Making

As a non-verbal therapy technique, art therapy helps people who are not adept with verbal expressions or don’t benefit from traditional talk therapy. Recently, art therapy has gained momentum in the media as well as in lives post-pandemic. Unfortunately, existing video conferencing apps make it hard for therapists to observe and interact with their art therapy clients. The online experience leaves both the art therapist and the client disappointed.
Art Therapi is a brand-new solution for online art therapy. It consists of a desktop app(for therapists) and a tablet app(for clients) to create art, have a productive dialogue, and take notes. It also provides a better way for art therapists to understand clients’ feelings and thoughts while helping clients to express themselves through art.

01  Enjoy the Video :) 👉

An art therapy app providing reliable and meaningful online art therapy experiences for therapists and clients.

02  Process


In recent years, online psychotherapy has become increasingly popular, and its convenience has made it the way that many people try therapy for the first time. However, the software predominantly used in online therapy does not offer capabilities that would enable a number of important therapy techniques in Internet sessions. This problem inspired me to design an online therapy tool for therapists and clients.

Secondary Research

Through social networking and BBS, I was able to gain additional insights regarding the drawbacks of online psychotherapy. I found that the digital environment has been incompatible with some interactive therapy techniques such as art therapy and sandplay therapy. Compared with talk therapy, these methods have specific modalities that require applied design. As online therapy gains in popularity, additional tools are needed for these methods to work in nontraditional environments. As such, my focus became targeted interactive online therapy techniques.


In order to deeply understand the general psychotherapy field, I interviewed two therapists. YuehChun Chao, an art therapist and Ruidi Zhu, a talk therapist. Here are the insights and notes.

Competitor Analysis & Mapping

I conducted a comparison of two of the online therapy platforms on the market, Talkspace and Betterhelp. I think that my product as a platform for interactive therapy techniques can cover more high-risk cases. The interactivity will also be a major differentiator for competitors.

Indeation 1

I chose sandplay therapy and art therapy, two typical kinds of interactive psychotherapy, as my ideation directions. I realized there were two categories in which I could develop concepts: physical products and apps.

I believe that physical products involving all types of media are more fun than digital applications in the art-making process. They allow clients to physically interact with the tools and actually feel the textures of the material in ways that could better stimulate the senses. However, after reviewing my own psychotherapy experience, I remembered that the process of beginning therapy can be especially trying. Both the client and the therapist need time and interaction with each other to ensure that a working relationship is possible. Therefore, it could be tricky to ask clients to buy a product before deciding that a psychotherapy technique is beneficial for them.
Therefore, I believe apps are better ways for improving experiences while also respecting the trial periods of new therapy relationships. Screen interactions also have the potential to build an experience that reach the standard, even creating something that is impossible in the traditional environment.

MVP Testing

I designed two prototypes, one involving sandplay therapy and one involving art therapy, and I invited three users to test them, giving them a choice between topics. These simple prototypes were made from existing apps in order to test the basic online therapy process.

I gained the following insights and feedback from these initial experiments:

  • Users are not likely to realize the expected benefit during the first time that they try the application.
  • Users want to be able to archive the sand tray or artwork in order to see changes and progress.
  • Therapists are busy during therapy, and some productivity features could be helpful.
  • I may need to consider ways in which users can use the application comfortably while still allowing the therapists to see their faces.

Pain Points

After comparing the population and accessibility between sandplay and art therapy, I decided to deep into the art therapy solution.

Combining the results from the MVP test [art therapy] and interviews, I found many issues to address. At the time, I believed it could be better to focus on the in-session experiences. I selected and summarized the pain points of in-session online art therapy as three items: 

1. Material preparation,
2. Environment
3. Observation.

In a traditional therapy session, art therapists can set up a safe and interactive environment for the clients to express their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Therapists can observe the clients' body language and art-making process to provide better support.  However, therapists might find it difficult to set up the environment, pick up clues, and provide sufficient support through a screen.

Ideation 2

Painting Panel

In designing an effective painting panel for this application, I first had to figure out how to replicate the traditional painting experience. While a free color panel could be a better choice the clients came from different age groups and skill levels, so I chose a limited color panel in order to reduce learning time and potential frustration. I hoped for the experience to be similar to drawing with colored pencils, so clients could paint like they were children.

Virtual Space

I explored 2 solutions for improving the immersive of the virtual environment.

I found Light Source Sharing to be especially interesting; it allows clients to share the same light source environment as the therapist by using AI processing to enhance the sense of common space that is helpful for emotional connection.

I combined this into the Virtual Art Background to increase the chances of building a welcoming environment for clients.

View Angle

Online meetings really limited the view angle. After an experiment, I learned that the view angle could increase by 130% if clients use a vertical camera rather than horizontal. However, I believe the product shouldn't limit users to one of those states, so I only set the vertical view as a default unless clients keep the camera horizontal for a number of seconds.

Eye Contact

Because of the camera positions and therapist note-taking, clients and therapists may have less eye contact than during in-person sessions. Clients may feel uneasy if they think that the therapist is not concentrating on their discussion. Fortunately, I have a designed a solution that will be shown in the following demonstration.

User Journey