What is Art Therapy?
Art Therapy focuses on the creative process to facilitate self-exploration and understanding. By using imagery, colour and shape, thoughts and emotions can be expressed that would otherwise be difficult to articulate verbally, especially if there is a mind-body relationship to the nature of an individual’s presenting issue(s). As such, the creative process can bring about awareness and subsequent processing of these thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
The true beauty of art therapy is that it allows the individual to be an active participant in their own healing process through the tangible act of making art. Given its nature, art therapy does not require participants to have artistic skills in order to creatively explore their current concern(s). Sometimes being uncomfortable in the creative process is another cause to explore in itself through the art-making process.
A variety of techniques are employed with individuals such as drawing, painting and sculpting. Within this broad range of creative activities exists many forms of sensory experiences from the tactile to the visual. Because of the multifaceted creative activities and materials employed in art therapy, this therapeutic modality can be used to treat diverse mental disorders and psychological distresses. The conditions that art therapy can treat is just as extensive. Some of these conditions include: depression, stress, anxiety, aging-related issues, emotional difficulties, eating disorders, PTSD and substance abuse.
Many individuals often wonder how art therapy differs from traditional, conversation-based therapy. They are related in the realm of having a trusting and secure relationship between therapist and individual; however, in art therapy, instead of a two-way interaction there is a three-way interaction between the therapist, the individual and the art. Individuals are encouraged to create art that expresses their inner world and this creation, in turn, becomes a visual voice for their prevalent distress.
As such, the mental health benefits of creating art are as diverse as its techniques and materials. Some of the benefits, however, can include: self-discovery/esteem, emotional awareness/release and self-compassion/understanding.
Creating art can help you acknowledge and recognize feelings that have been lurking in your subconscious. This learned knowledge about oneself can give you a feeling of self-accomplishment and empowerment which are invaluable when it comes to improving your self-appreciation and confidence.
The greatest benefit of art therapy is giving you a healthy outlet for expressing, becoming aware of and letting go of all your feelings and fears. Complex and compounded emotions such as sadness or anger sometimes cannot be expressed with words. When you are unable to express yourself, but you desire emotional release, making art may help you to do it.
Struggling with certain thoughts and emotions for a long time can take a toll on how you view yourself and care for yourself. Through the journey of making art and becoming more self-aware about thoughts and emotions, self-compassion and a deeper understanding of self becomes possible which is unbelievably necessary for continued and lasting healing.