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What is art therapy? And does it help heal a mentally ill person

Art therapy is just another form of psychotherapy with more visual stimulants.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy uses creativity as a means to treat personality problems and psychological issues. It involves techniques like drawing, painting, coloring, sculpting, modelling and other. It helps the patient channel their inner creativity and express themselves through art. With professional guidance, they can deduce the messages, symbolism and metaphors found in the art they created. This helps give a better understanding of emotions, psychology and behavior patterns. Thus, contributing to the treatment.

When is it used?

Anyone can get art therapy. For children, teenagers, adults and elderly. Whoever wants to explore their emotions, improve their self esteem, deal with addictions, relieve some stress, control their anxiety and depression. It also helps in dealing with physical illness and disability!

People who assist in art therapy, counselors or art therapist work among groups or with individuals. All in a variety settings like private counselling, hospital, community organization, wellness centers and even your own house! The therapy requires no art talent. Since, it is not about perfect strokes as much as it is about finding an association between creative choices made and life. Its a great means if remembering something which has been forgotten and reveal the inner workings of the unconscious brain.

How does it go?

Like in most therapies, the first session consists of talking to the therapist. The usual questions are why do you wish to seek help and what the therapist has to offer to you. Both try to come to a suitable artistic means. The therapist tends not interfere while you put pen to paper, simply observing without interfering.

In between or after you are done, they may ask questions like:

  1. How do you feel?
  2. What was the easy part of your creation?
  3. What was the hard part of your creation?
  4. Why was the easy part easy and not hard?
  5. Why was the hard part hard and not easy?
  6. How did you feel while doing the easy part?
  7. How did you feel while doing the hard part?
  8. Is there any memory related to what you have created?
  9. What emotion did you wish to channel through this art?
  10. What were you thinking while you created it?
  11. Do you like what you have created?
  12. What do you think you would have done differently?
  13. Do you like it?
  14. Which part do you like?

And other such questions. Generally, most, if not all will be related to you, your experience and feelings. Later, the therapist will provide you with their observations. In conclusion, the whole process is based on the belief that self expression through art has a therapeutic effect. It provides a deeper understanding into a human’s thinking while healing them.

Art therapists are taught the meaning of color, texture, pattern and various other roles art can play. They learn the role of art in treatment and how each part of it reveals something about the person’s consciousness. Art therapy is just another form of psychotherapy with more visual stimulants.

Here we will look at art therapy in more detail!

Mental health includes emotional, psychological and social well being. It affects our existence, unlike anything else. It affects our thoughts, feelings and action; determines how we deal with stress and pressure. Thus, what are our choices. At every stage of life, irrespective of age and gender, from puberty to death, it is a very important part of us. If you end up having to deal with any sort of mental health problem, you will notice that suddenly the world begins to suck. Everyone is out to get you, no one loves you. It begins to affect your thoughts, mood, emotions and hence, your behavior.

There are lots of factors affecting mental health. Some of them are:

  1. Biological factors such as genes and hormones.
  2. Life experiences like childhood abuse, accident trauma.
  3. Family history of mental health problems.
  4. Pressure like peer and parental pressure.

It is vital to look for early warning signs and reach out. Some symptoms are listed below. It is suggested that you do not self-diagnose as they pose problems of their own. Rather, reach out to a professional.

  1. Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  2. Pushing away people.
  3. Having low or no energy and zest.
  4. Ignoring usual activities.
  5. Feeling that the whole world desolate.
  6. Feeling numb.
  7. Suffering through unexplained aches and pain.
  8. Feeling helpless or hopeless.
  9. Starting to smoke, drink or use drug.
  10. Feeling confused, strained, forgetful, edgy, angry, upset, worried, scared or suicidal.
  11. Yelling at others.
  12. Quarreling with others.
  13. Going through severe mood swings.
  14. Problems in relationships.
  15. Inducing self harm.
  16. Having persistent thoughts and memories that you want to get out of your mind but can not.
  17. Hearing voices
  18. Seeing things.
  19. Wanting to hurt others.
  20. Inability to perform daily chores.

Like mentioned earlier, it is better to go to a professional, but why does it matter if you go through all these symptoms? Why is having a healthy mind, so important? Well, a positive and healthy mind allows the person to work to their full potential, cope with various stresses and pressure, hence, be able to work productively and contribute to the society and community.

Apart from art therapy you can get a counselor, connect with others, stay optimistic, be physically active, help others, get enough sleep and develop a coping rather than escape mechanism. Art therapy does all of this and more.

Types of Art Therapies

But what are the different types of art therapies that you can choose? After all, not everyone is interested in painting and drawing. Well, we got you covered! In this section of the article, we will talk about the various types of art therapies present in the world.

  1. Painting
  2. Finger Painting
  3. Doodling
  4. Scribbling
  5. Sculpting
  6. Drawing
  7. Molding Clay
  8. Carving
  9. Pottery
  10. Card Making
  11. Sewing and stitching
  12. Collage making
  13. Dance
  14. Poetry
  15. Music

While we are at it, let us define the thin line between art therapy and expressive art therapy. Dance, poetry and music come in the expressive art therapy block. Yes, both provide emotional and mental relief. The difference arrives in the method through which they do it. Art therapy takes the visual approach. On the other hand, expressive art therapy consists of more than one approach. It has visual, auditory, olfactory and others included in it at the same time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is there any prior experience required to participate in art therapy?

Why, no! There is no such rule stating that you need experience to become a part of any art therapy session. The art therapist is a trained individual. She or he will guide you through the process using certain materials. They are well trained in matters of art and psychology. What you do require is a willingness and zest.

2. What does an art therapist need to have?

In case you want to hire an art therapist check whether they have a master’s degree in the component they will teach you. Usually, expressive art like dance requires no training, butdo they are good at what they do. After all, you want to do good, right? Many universities offer an art therapy credential that goes by the name ATR. It is an indication that they are registered individuals. Remember to do a background check, too!

Yet the most important and vital thing is their degree in psychology. You can hire a dance teacher from anywhere but the dance teacher that can observe and deduce why you make a particular movement the way you do? A drawing teacher than understands why you use bright colors more than dark or why you paint the roses green and mosses red?

3. I want to keep the art I created with me. Can I?

Why, indeed! Since you have created and made it, it always will belong to you. A lot chooses to keep the finished art with them while many keep it with the art therapist. As a matter of fact, under the client therapist privacy, the therapist is not supposed to show your art to anyone without your permission. It is in the code of ethics. Anyone who breaks it is liable for a fine.

4. What kind of art will I be making during the art therapy?

The kind of art you will make is subjective. It depends on the interest and benefits related to the art you will make, to be precise. There are wide of products and processes to create something. Like already mentioned, there is clay modelling, painting, mask making, creating a visual journal, assembling collages and what not. Rather than focusing on the end result, art therapy focuses more on the process.

Another interesting thing to note is the different healing qualities each art supply house. For some hip hop is more suitable while for others contemporary is more beneficial. A good example would be pencil colors and water colors. Pencil colors are dry and can be easily used, controlled and manipulated. On the other hand, water colors are wet and in comparison to pencil colors, difficult to control. The art therapist has been specially trained to assess which one is best suitable for you. They take into account the problems you are facing, the frame of mind during the session, your personality and other varied factors.

5. How do art therapist interpret artwork?

Think of art therapist as a counselor or a psychotherapist. More than interpreting your work, they will focus on the meaning you find in your artwork. During Layman’s term, it’s you who is the expert of your work and the role of the art therapist is to elaborate your findings and explore it further. What you find, they are going to analyzes.