Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have any artistic skills to benefit from art therapy. Why not?
It’s not the finished product that matters. It’s the process.
The Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as, “a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.” Art therapy is rooted in Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s theories of the subconscious and unconscious and based on the idea that visual symbols and images are the most readily accessible forms of communication. Art therapy is often used in conjunction with traditional therapies and can be especially helpful with children or adults with more limited vocabulary and means of verbal expression.
But why is art therapy so popular? For many reasons, including the following:
According to artist and art therapist Denise Braun of HeartWork City Studios in California, “When you move your focus into your right brain through art, you start to let go of your analytical left brain. It is through that right brain creative process that we learn to release our inner critic and embrace the act of creating. It is never about the product. It is always about the process. Art therapy offers a way to unblock emotional expression without having to sit and talk about feelings. Art makes it easier to represent intense emotion without language.”
Art therapy helps individuals visually express emotions and fears they were never able to articulate through conventional means, and give them some sense of control over these feelings, according to Psychology.jrank.org.
In addition to the insights a therapist might gain by watching you create art or the symbols in your finished product, the very act of creating art can reduce stress. Your brain focuses on creation and the often repetitive actions of drawing lines with pencils or moving paint with a paintbrush slows relaxes your body. Coloring has become a popular creative outlet for adults in recent years because it stimulates the right side of the brain — where your creativity, intuition and visualization lie.
Stress levels go down and feelings of peace and happiness increase.
While some strong emotions may feel too overwhelming to express verbally, they can be released in a variety of ways through art. Anger, fear and resentment might be released by throwing paint onto a canvas or pounding clay. Others might give these emotions to a character in a drawing. Some emotions feel too big to talk about but can be worked out and released through the physicality of various art forms.
Interesting trends appear as you let your creative flag fly. You may be drawn to color combinations you hadn’t considered before or realize you prefer doodling circles instead of lines. Getting to know what colors, movements and materials (paint, pens, pencils, etc.) bring you peace will help you use art as a personal therapy and stress reliever.
Wendy Young leads art groups to help people learn to play again. Through art she encourages them to explore their dreams and emotional blocks in a safe and creative environment.
Art Therapy is becoming trendy for a variety of reasons. First, it is becoming recognized by the medical community as providing benefits for mental health, which makes it more socially acceptable for the masses to try. Art is also easy and accessible when you release your beliefs around what it means to create art and stop judging what the end result is. When you allow yourself to enjoy the process and stop worrying about the outcome, you will find art to be a fun way to decompress!
The only question that remains is this: What will you try first?
Featured photo credit: martinak15 via flickr.com
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