The use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art is referred to as Art therapy. With the guidance of a professional art therapist, clients can learn to "decode" the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in these art forms, which leads to a better understanding of their feelings and behavior helping them to move on to resolve deeper issues.
What to Expect?
Art therapy can be used as a complement to any traditional mental health treatment. The aim of the therapy is to manage behaviors, process feelings, reducing stress and anxiety, and increase self-esteem. Studies have revealed that creating art stimulates the release of dopamine. This neurotransmitter that is released when we do something pleasurable, and dopamine is commonly known by the name of happy hormone. Increased levels of this feel-good neurotransmitter can be very helpful for clients who are battling anxiety or depression.
How Does It Works?
Art therapy is based on the belief that self-expression through artistic creation has therapeutic value for those who are trying to heal or seeking deeper understanding of themselves and their personalities. As per the American Art Therapy Association, art therapists are trained to understand the roles that texture, color, and various art media can play in the therapeutic process and how these tools can help in revealing one’s feelings, thoughts, and psychological disposition. Art therapy integrates psychotherapy and few forms of visual arts as a specific, stand-alone form of therapy, it is also frequently used in combination with other types of therapy.
When it is Used?
Art therapy helps children, adolescents, and adults explore their emotions, relieve stress, manage addictions, improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve self-esteem, and cope with a physical illness or disability. Art therapists work with individuals, couples, and groups in a various settings, including private counseling, wellness centers, hospitals, senior centers, correctional institutions, and other community organizations. No artistic talent or knowledge of drawing and paints are necessary for art therapy to succeed, because the therapeutic process is not about the artistic value of the work. It is about finding associations between the creative choices made by the clients and a client's inner life. The artwork can be used as a springboard for reawakening old memories and telling stories that may cause revelation messages and beliefs from the unconscious mind.
Role of an Art Therapist
Just like any form of therapy, the first session usually consist of talking to the therapist with the client regarding why the client is seeking help and describing what the therapist has to offer. Together, the client and the therapist comes up with a treatment plan that involves creating some form of artwork. Once the client begins creating, the therapist may, at times, simply observe the process of work, without interference or judgment. When the client have finished a piece of artwork—and sometimes while the client is still working on it—the therapist might ask some questions along the lines of how the client feels about the artistic process, what was easy or difficult about creating that particular artwork, and what thoughts or memories the client had had while working. Generally, the therapist asks about one’s experience and feelings before providing any observations.
Regev, D., & Cohen-Yatziv, L. (2018). Effectiveness of Art Therapy With Adult Clients in 2018-What Progress Has Been Made?. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1531. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01531