If you can remember back to your school age days, try to think about your favorite art projects, drawings, talent shows, etc. Do those experiences bring back fond memories? As adults, sometimes it is difficult to remember back to those days when we have work, bills, family, kids, pets, and many other responsibilities at the forefront of our minds. It is also unfortunate that society often looks at art as a taboo adult activity if you don’t work professionally as an “artist.”
Art is a therapeutic endeavor, and is a great platform to build on for someone who is interested in therapy, but is nervous about having to speak directly to a therapist. The premise of Art Therapy is using art as a basis of expression combined with a therapeutic modality. Art Therapy can be done individually with an art therapist, or it can be done in a group setting.
Art Therapy groups provide a safe environment for people to express their emotions, hear from others who may be struggling with similar problems, and allow for emotional healing. However, Art Therapy itself does not have to be applied only as a treatment. Art can be used as a healthy outlet to relieve stress and tension from everyday life.
Art Therapy involves creative outlets like sketching, painting, coloring, sculpting, writing, music, etc. and helps people express themselves artistically. Art therapists are trained to look for and examine the psychological and emotional undertones that a person may be trying to express through their art. The idea is to help someone better understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that may be causing distress in their lives.
The great thing about art therapy is that anyone can participate in it. You don’t have to consider yourself an “artist” to be involved. Scrap booking, creating a vision board, crafting, poetry, etc. can all be used. Additionally, for those who struggle communicating with words, art allows them to express themselves without having to speak. This can be particularly relevant in cases of individuals with trauma, Autism, and developmental disabilities.
Art Therapy can be useful in all age groups from childhood all the way through late adulthood. Because of this wide range there are many settings in which Art Therapy can be used. Some examples are early intervention programs, schools, hospitals, correctional institutions, rehabilitation facilities, community mental health programs, senior centers, etc.
According to the American Art Therapy Association “Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.” The National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations, Inc. is an organization that includes Art Therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy, Drama Therapy, Music therapy, Poetry therapy, and Psychodrama. Their organization seeks to address major societal issues like:
- School violence
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Domestic violence
- Substance abuse
- General health
- Breast cancer