People have turned to the creative arts as a means of therapy for centuries. Art therapy is a field that originated from the catharsis of artistic expression, and licensed art therapists help clients around the world treat a variety of mental illnesses and personal struggles with creative projects.
Art therapy can be used in virtually any environment with clients ranging from pre-school children to senior citizens. Those who cannot articulate themselves clearly due to developmental disorders such as autism may benefit from art therapy as it gives them a voice that would otherwise go unheard.
With the help of a professional therapist, clients who undergo art therapy are able to learn more about themselves through their nonverbal expression; art therapists decipher symbols, colors, patterns and metaphors that arise through the creative process, all while helping clients relieve stress and find comfort in their artwork.
Art Therapy in Action
There are types of art therapy that can treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Therapists will typically choose exercises and mediums based on a client’s age, personality and symptoms.
Journaling is a common art therapy prescribed for people struggling with depression or anxiety; children and adolescents who may not be as capable of identifying and expressing their feelings might be prompted to draw or paint their emotions instead.
For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), sensory art therapy that utilizes finger paints, kinetic sand, clay, and other tactile mediums can provide emotional release and serve as a positive outlet to reduce maladaptive behaviors.
Benefits of Art Therapy
It is not always feasible or comfortable for people to express how they’re feeling. Sometimes, an individual may not even understand the depth of their own emotions until they are given the opportunity to explore them creatively. Through art therapy, people can develop healthy coping skills while learning more about themselves, who they are and how their problems “color” their lives.
Art therapy can build confidence, reduce stress and improve behavior. By exploring a new way of expressing one’s thoughts and feelings, art therapy offers the opportunity to delve deeper into the psyche and uncover repressed thoughts and feelings that may be causing trouble in the present.
Finally, art therapy is a valuable tool that can be used in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy. By exploring a client’s creative output, therapists can find new ways to address their problems using therapeutic models such as talk therapy and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).