The Healing Potential of Art
It is often said that art is an imitation of life. Art is a form of expression and a channel through which we convey ideas and feelings. It is a medium of expression of one’s creativity. Art is a product of human activity that stimulates the senses and evokes different types of emotions. It is the mind’s interpretation of what it perceives, and expresses it in symbols, words, drawings, music, dance, plays, etc. It comes from the mind of its creator.
If art imitates life and is an expression of human activity, then art can help us understand an individual’s state of being through his works. Throughout the centuries, many artists have used their art form for aesthetic as well therapeutic purposes. Many artists who understood the connection between art and healing based their assumptions on principles of human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spirituality, multicultural and artistic traditions.
Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art by people who experience a variety of challenges in life, such as stress and emotional problems, anxiety and depression, illnesses and other health conditions. It is also for people who seek personal development and fulfillment.
Artistic creation and its processes increase self-awareness and the ability to cope with struggles in living which include coping with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences. Art therapy helps to enhance cognitive abilities and provides life-affirming pleasures.
In art therapy, creation may start with an urge to make a doodle or sketch, or with a certain feeling, dreams, memories or just a plain idea. The next step is to give it a physical form with the use of a clay or paint or any tool one would like to use for his creation. This is a creative play that provides a means to express something that has no word, or is not yet understood.
There are a number of reasons why people come to art therapy. Most people who are grieving the loss of a loved one, undergoing anxiety and depression, trauma, sexual abuse, and drug or substance addiction find relief and courage through their creativity. Others who are mending broken relationships, exploring their dreams, or seeking for renewal and meaning in their lives have found the depth of art therapy to be very helpful and effective.
Art therapy can provide a deep sense of safety as it becomes a trusted place where one can show images or expressions that a person considers to be private. Paintings, sculptures, and other forms of art offer a kind of nourishment, healing insights, and a fresh respect for one’s creativity. There are people who prefer to work in silence. But there are also times when a unique dialogue between a client and a therapist takes place. The finished art work remains a source of further reflection after the session.
For art therapy, the creative process and experience are given more emphasis than coming up with a beautiful product. A drawing of an ugly picture can be an important expression of suppressed anger, anxiety and depression. Just the act of picking up a crayon and making a mark can be a powerful expression to some people who have not done any art since grade school. Engaging in artworks can evoke feelings and relive memories of those days.
Art therapists are trained professionals in the field of aesthetics and therapy. They are experts about the healing potential of art. They use art for treatment, assessment, and research into psychological and emotional disorders. They provide consultations to allied professionals and work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities. Services are provided individually or as part of clinical teams in different locations and big settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; open studios and independent practices.
To experience and to regain creativity can be empowering, as well as pleasurable. Connecting creativity with therapy greatly helps in exploring the struggles and challenges of daily normal life. Have any of you experienced healing through art therapy or gone through the process?