Partaking in various forms of art can be very relaxing. However, there is a difference between art therapy and therapeutic art making. While both are beneficial, working with a professional art therapist is different in its own right. When you work with an art therapist, they are trained to know what mediums and techniques to work with in order to help a person learn how to express themselves through what they are creating. Through their art, they can then find the words to help them put together what is going on inside them, and then the art therapist can give them coping skills and strategies to help address needs and achieve goals in treatment.
What exactly is art therapy? Well according to the American Art Therapy Association (https://www.arttherapy.org/upload/whatisarttherapy.pdf), art therapy is “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” and a goal is “to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being”. With this definition in mind, it is easy to see that art therapy is about treating the person wholly through art. The art is just a part of the process and there is much more that goes into it. It is not just about making one feel relaxed, which while beneficial is not the only goal. An art therapist “uses art materials and directives to activate sensory responses and generate imagery that is directly connected to emotions. This process helps one to re-experience emotions in a way that allows them to organize their feelings and form a narrative around an overwhelming experience. Once this occurs, it is possible for words to emerge that make communication possible” (https://samsfans.org/art-therapy-how-it-works/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI6tquh6Ps4QIVxrrACh1XSQ9SEAAYASAAEgIfNfD_BwE). This makes all the difference in doing art therapy on your own and doing it with a professional.
If you are wondering who art therapy can help, there are a number of issues people have that art therapy can help with such as
- Learning Disorders
- Relationship Issues
- Mental Illness
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia
- LGBTQ Support
If you are finding that talk therapy is not working for you anymore or feel that you may need something in addition to your talk therapy, art therapy may be a viable option for you. Working with different forms of art can help you tap into emotions and parts of yourself that could otherwise be stifled. Why not give yourself the freedom to explore a different side and create something beautiful in the process?
By Garcsa Brooks
Intern, Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc.