What is Comic Art Therapy?
While I practice art therapy as a whole, my specialty lies in the area of comic art therapy. Comic art therapy (or graphic storytelling or visual narrative therapy) centres on creating comics, zines or graphic novels for therapeutic reasons. The story and visuals created in this manner are meant to be a personal and explorative journey through imagery and words. My motivation in this area revolves around my own personal experience reading and expressively engaging through the comic art medium as a means of externalizing complex emotions and finding possible solutions to these feelings through the creative process. A few years ago I created a graphic narrative on the topic of grief and loss (a grief comic memoir linked below) as my graduate thesis to add claim to the comic art medium as a whole in terms of its therapeutic qualities; by being transparent throughout the narrative about my experience and process, I hoped to show others how powerful this expressive medium could be.
The comic art form exists as a language of its own- as an exploratory subjective/autobiographical narrative art with an inherent visual communication that touches upon multiple aspects, connected reciprocally. Much of the benefits to creating comic art lies in its ability to support the subjective voice of the individual and its unique form of expression; no two comics are the same, even when made by the same individual.
In terms of visual communication, each visual component integrated into a comic by an individual can be a potential insight into their inner world and mindset. Comic art contains a language of its own device but this language has the ability to be both universal and culturally sensitive at the same time. In focusing on the potential for symbolic work in this form, an individual can, “with a symbolic attitude, make possible an experience of transition from lesser to greater awareness of the previously unconscious forces at work, which are distorting current events and behaviour” (J. Hubback, The Symbolic Attitude in Psychotherapy).
In regards to the execution of comic art, the very act of creating a comic, zine or graphic novel actively evocates a problem solving process in terms of formatting the myriad of variables involved in this art form; from frames to speech to movement to artistic style, the possibilities are endless. Because of these distinct attributes, comic art can easily speak to the psychological state of a person and how they approach certain issues or concerns, the meaning and significance within their symbolic language and their cultural values which are all necessary aspects to explore within the therapeutic dynamic.
In terms of the aforementioned thesis, I reasoned that it would be better to start with myself in terms of how comic art could be used for therapeutic purposes. To me, comic art is a fairly personal medium so, before employing it in my own therapeutic practice with individuals, I ventured on my own therapeutic journey where I described how I used comic art to help me in the hopes of encouraging others through the evidence of my experience. In this fashion, I can now be used as a reference point to potential individuals on how art therapy and comic art can be therapeutically beneficial in their lives.
All of that considered, I don’t think that I’m an ‘expert’ pertaining to comic art in any way, I’m still on my own journey of learning all that it has to offer as well. That said, I am a person who is passionate about using comic art for therapeutic means who has learned some valuable lessons in this area and it is with this same passion that I’d like to help you discover the potential of this multifaceted medium. It would be an honour and a privilege to be able to journey with you as you too uncover the wonders of visual storytelling through comic art therapy.