Understanding the Basics of Art Therapy
Art therapy is a different discipline that includes various creative ways of expression through creative art medium. Art therapy, however, originated from the areas of art and psychology and can range in scope from an infatuation with abstract expression to a complete therapy of the psyche. The best way to define art therapy is that it combines art and psychology. For some therapists, art can be used to create healing spaces where clients can release feelings, memories or thoughts that they are not able to verbalize. Others use art to create visual and written expressions that help clients discover the things that they need to do in order to progress psychologically.
Although it is not widely recognized, art therapy has some positive effects on mental health. Research suggests that people who have a strong creative ability are less likely to engage in violence or substance abuse. Those with an artistic ability are also less lonely and are more likely to feel acceptance and security. In addition, those with an artistic ability are less depressed. Art Therapy is often used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, because the two therapies have shown positive results in reducing the number of depressive disorders and their associated symptoms. The combination of art therapy and CBT has been proven to be highly effective for patients who are diagnosed with mild to moderate depression.
A professional art therapist will draw on the client’s personal history and discuss his/her emotions, interests, and their relationship with art. It is important for the art therapist to draw from the client’s life in order to determine which of the emotional factors are contributing to the patient’s depressive state. This can take several forms. For example, some of the emotional states that are related to artistic expressions include guilt, shame, anger, fear, sadness, etc. depending on the specific art therapy medium selected.
Other factors can be personal or relational. An individual’s identity outside of the art context is usually explored as well. This may include the family, friends, work, school, and spirituality. Identities may also be a result of experiences in abusive or traumatic environments. Art Therapy in this case would seek to help individuals suffering from a sense of shame, guilt, or lack of self-worth because of their experiences.
Art Therapy can also be used to improve the mental health and well-being of individuals suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, etc. It is interesting to note that those with an artistic ability are less depressed, have less substance abuse problems, and are less likely to engage in behaviors that could become harmful. Moreover, those with an artistic ability are more likely to seek treatment for their mental health conditions if they are already doing so. This supports the notion that Art Therapy can be utilized for depressive disorders as well as other mental health issues.
Other symptoms associated with these illnesses include the inability to sleep, changes in eating habits, changes in behavior, feeling detached emotionally, feeling angry/shameful/transformed, feeling misunderstood, needing constant reassurance and guidance, and feeling isolated. Depression, bipolar disorder, and similar conditions are often inter-related. A traumatic event may trigger symptoms of one condition, resulting in symptoms related to another. The only way to determine if an event is triggering your symptoms is by talking about it with your therapist or your family doctor. In addition, an increasing number of professionals are recognizing the benefits of art therapy in their practices. This includes doctors, therapists, and counselors.