You might have heard of art therapy and how it’s lauded as one of the most effective tools for healing from mental disorders and emotional instability. But you might doubt if this form of therapy fits an inartistic you. Well, art therapy is more than just painting and drawing. Read on to find out more about it!
By definition, art therapy is the use of art as a tool of communication which allows an individual to express himself, explore his thoughts and ultimately give his feelings and emotions a name or a face. It’s an excellent medium for those who find it difficult to express themselves verbally.
Who Can Use Art As A Form Of Therapy?
“Art Therapy utilizes the use of art materials and the creative process to help clients heal & help them with physical, mental, spiritual and emotional benefits.” Elena Lamaak, MA, LMHC said. Anyone can use art therapy! Listed below are some of the groups of people who gained the most benefits in using art as a form of healing and communication over the years:
Individuals belonging to the autism spectrum disorder – various studies discovered that art calms autistic people down. It’s also a useful form of communication for those with ASD who find it hard to communicate verbally.
People suffering from psychological and mental disorders – the many forms of this therapy have been proven to alleviate depression and anxiety. Therapists also encourage individuals with schizophrenia and other related conditions to try doing this kind of treatment.
Those who are suffering from dementia – someone with a disease that robs him of his memories might regain a sense of personal identity and even some memories with the use of art therapy.
The terminally or chronically ill – studies revealed that people – both adults and kids – with terminal illnesses like cancer benefit from art therapy through the alleviation of depressive and anxious feelings and thoughts as well as aid them in regaining a sense of freedom and control.
“Art therapy can help improve various mental and pysical symptoms including, but not limited to, reducing pain, anxiety, and tension. It can be beneficial to those who have mental disorders, severe or light emotional abuse, cancer, post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), people who are bipolar, and a variety of other serious ailments.” –Douglas Mitchell, LMFT
Art Therapy: Its Many Forms
Painting – painting is an art form using more fluid supplies to make images like acrylic paints, spray paints, watercolors, and the likes. The emphasis isn’t on creating a beautiful picture or an artistic masterpiece but to express drawn or painted representations of suppressed emotions and thoughts.
Drawing – this form is similar to painting, the only difference being the tools used. Instead of fluid art supplies, this form uses paper forms as well as other non-fluid art tools to make pictures such as crayons, color pencils, pencils, pens and the likes.
One deviation that mixes both painting and drawing is the use of watercolor pencils.
Sculpting – this art form provides the client a way to have a dimensional view of his inner voice with the use of sculpting tools like clay and carving paraphernalia among many others.
Collage – this form is a more passive method of art therapy. Passive in the sense that it uses objects that are already there – magazines and other printed or drawn things along with objects or just about anything one might wish to include in his montage. Scrapbooking falls into this category. Collage is, arguably, the most undemanding task a therapist can give to his client, and it’s ideal for individuals who have a hard time starting assignments and making decisions.
Photography – this art medium might not be for everybody a few decades back, but now, our smartphones have cameras that we can carry anywhere we want to go making photography quite accessible.
Individuals who dabble in photography as their therapy tool can make up storyboards of images they have taken or take ones that best capture their thoughts and emotions for that particular moment.
Writing – prose, and poetry are a form of art, too. Journaling is one of the best writing methods that have made leaps and bounds in the mental health world. In fact, one study stated that starting a gratitude journal help individuals become more thankful and altruistic towards others. “it’s not only the benefit of catharsis in the moment of writing that makes journaling so effective – It’s also reviewing what you’ve written.” Lindsey Pratt Psychotherapy, LMHC said.
Textile – this medium includes textile art and painting (e.g., t-shirt printing) or therapy that involves puppetry and stuffed toys.
Whatever form of art therapy you decide to immerse yourself into, it’s best to talk to your therapist first to determine if your chosen medium is something that suits your personality. Then, take on whatever tool you decide to use – may that be a pen, a paintbrush, a color pencil, a camera or even a t-shirt – and express yourself away.