The Art of Art Therapy
I am often asked about what I do. Healing art therapy does not seek to teach art or even to interpret art. Generally speaking, I help people gain personal insight by processing complex or painful inner conflicts through art. Unlike traditional psychotherapy where patients are encouraged to discuss painful emotions or events, art therapy allows the individual to express difficult emotions without words
Emotions, especially those that result from trauma, loss or crisis, are often hard to articulate – and sometimes, words are not enough to completely convey what’s inside a person’s mind and heart. Because feelings are sometimes difficult to relate with words, many people push them inward – causing depression, confusion, anxiousness, shame, hopelessness or frustration.
The process of making art helps individuals confront painful, overwhelming or complex emotions that need to be expressed and processed to achieve optimal mental health. Art can be used to help people confront inner conflicts, overcome depression, integrate traumatic experiences, and to ultimately achieve relief, healing and resolution. Throughout history, visual art has been used to make sense of crisis, pain and psychic upheaval through a variety of media. Personal turmoil and social upheaval has traditionally been reflected through paintings, sculptures and other art forms. Art is undoubtedly one of the most ancient forms of healing.
Patients suffering from addiction, depression or anxiety often enjoy the opportunity to explore their creative freedom – a chance to express themselves through art and to gain symbolic control over circumstances they fear may be out of control and a sense of self-empowerment. With one movement, the process of art can unify a person’s thoughts, feelings and outward expression. This can be especially powerful with individuals in recovery.
Some of the therapeutic art projects I have done include: worry boxes, gratitude trees, angry postcards (may or may not be sent), decoupage of authentic self/social mask, calming canvas acrylic paintings and watercolors of hope. Meditative music is played while our clients create their masterpieces and chatter is kept to a minimum. At the end of each session, group participants are encouraged to share their art with others in the group.
The creative process, like the therapeutic process, provides an opportunity to explore and experiment with new ideas and ways of being. In art making, the individual is strengthening the right side of the brain – with a steady stream of modifying, altering, improvising, and transforming. These are the same characteristics that are needed to tackle life’s challenges. These are indeed the preludes to making changes in one’s perceptions and one’s life.
I love what I do!