Why use art or any other form of creative expression — movement, music, writing, etc — to assist with healing? Because therapists use treatment modalities with which they are most comfortable, and clients are more likely to heal, grow and change when they are exposed to the modalities that best meet their needs.
Art therapy is a therapeutic technique rooted in the idea that creativity can foster healing and mental well-being.
Everyone is Creative
This therapeutic process is not about artmaking. Artmaking incorporates creativity and is related to the arts. Creativity is its own entity whether artistically oriented or not. This is an intuitive, unconscious process that invites discovery. Results can reveal beauty, gentleness, intensity and any emotion.
Art that is produced in a therapeutic setting is not about making art. It is about the expression of feeling with art as the medium. It’s a means of self-expression that is oriented towards process not result. It’s not to be judged as good or bad art or the style as right or wrong. Essentially whatever is created is the perfect expression of the client’s feelings in that moment.
People have different learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Most treatment modalities focus on the auditory. This is the most traditional and expected treatment approach — talk therapy.
However there are times when clients get stuck, and art can be a highly successful approach to breaking many of the verbal stalemates with clients. For instance, clients may:
- Hear messages in a selective or distorted fashion
- Tune others out
- Use language to distract them from difficult issues
- Have short attention spans
- Dissociate in varying degrees
- Find listening and talking next to impossible because of all the internal self-talk that directs their lives.
For All Ages
Art therapy is commonly used with children since it’s such a normal form of speech for a child. They often lack words, but they certainly can draw pictures which have meaning for them.
Adults have the same capability. Once adults move into the playfulness of expressing themselves through art, they can reveal a great deal.
Sometimes this work is directed — such as draw a tree. More often, it isn’t. The color, size and medium a person chooses as well as whether a piece is representational or not are all useful information. The degree of vigor, sounds and body language that go into creating can also provide insight into a client’s issues.
Therapeutic artmaking is a creative, exciting and rewarding therapeutic modality in which to participate.
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