When it comes to tackling and living with a mental illness, the thought of actively enjoying your life can seem a little far-fetched. We understand the utter de-motivation that can come with mood disorders, phobias, stress disorders and other obstacles.
However, we at Vantage Point encourage our patients to face the bright side of their issue at every corner and junction of their lives. In nearly all cases, the fact that you’re alive and seeking help is enough reason to take a deep breath, and relish in the realization that you’re capable of breathing in the air of the world. But there’s more to life than just being alive – and that’s something we want every one of our patients to carry deep within themselves, no matter how bad things get.
One way to bring enjoyment to those for whom joy can be hardest to come by is by encouraging our patients to embrace their inner creativity and create their own happiness. Part of the joys of life is struggling against the odds to create something, and leave something behind – making something to be proud of with your own mind and body, and seeing the fruits of your loving labor realized.
Creativity can be manifested in different ways – but the generalized term for what counts as a display of creativity is art. Art doesn’t have to restrict itself to any given conventions, which is what makes it such an enjoyable thing. Being passionate and truly talented in something as simple as writing or math can be an art form, just as much as a talent for drawing or painting can reveal magnificent masterpieces of creativity.
In most cases, however, art therapy is visual art. At Vantage Point, we refer to common artistic activities like sculpting, painting, and drawing as ways to help patients express themselves. But it doesn’t end there. Poetry or story writing can also be a great emotional outlet, and the same goes for making and playing music. Even tinkering with objects and modifying electronics can go from a practical hobby to artistic expression. There are no limits, except for the definition that art therapy should be a form of emotional, inner expression, and not just an exercise in following instructions or copying other artists.
We consider emotional expression a valid form of therapy for those who seek it. Not everyone wants to be creative – but for those looking for a positive hobby and a form of expression that doesn’t necessarily require words, undergoing art therapy with us is a great way to ease the difficulties of living with, and learning to cope with a mental illness.
Art therapy is an established and legitimate form of expressive therapy, one with a decades-long history in the mental health community as a simple way to relieve stress, and even reduce the symptoms of severe mental disorders. It’s also an amazing group exercise, one without the need for any real or significantly challenging social interaction – just the cooperative expression of creativity.
There is no one specific form or function any art therapy must follow – but there are various structures available to help guide patients to unlocking their inner artistic self. Art therapy’s biggest strong suits include:
- A self-reflective journey
- Boosting self-esteem
- Discovering inner thoughts and setting them free
- Relieving stress and emotional despair through a calming activity
- Improving self-awareness and mindfulness
While the above points may sound vague at first, anyone who’s taken the time to sit down with some paper or a canvas of any sort, and feel free to simply express themselves, will understand how art therapy can be an amazing way to sort out one’s feelings.
No Need for Talent
Art therapy isn’t necessarily about focusing on talent, and it most definitely isn’t a place for outer competition. There can be inner competition – if what you’re looking for in your therapy is a sense of progression, then getting better at your chosen form of expression can be a great way to boost your self-esteem. But just like how you’re fighting against and struggling with your own diagnosis, art therapy is an individual activity.
Coping With a Disorder
The inclusion of art therapy as a treatment for a variety of mental illnesses has to do with the fact that it acts as a useful coping tool for mood disorders, depression, anxiety, phobias, ADHD, schizophrenia and more. Coping mechanisms are important in treatment because they offer a means of stress relief that doesn’t actively make your situation worse.
Too often, maladaptive behavior such as drinking, gambling or unnecessary risk-taking can manifest as a symptom of dealing with the masked effects of a disorder. They take a bad situation and make it momentarily better, only to fuel the fire in the long-term.
Art therapy, however, is one among dozens of behavior choices that can actively contribute to ending the negative symptoms of a mental disorder. Alongside its potential to help you as a legitimate form of treatment, its ability to help you avoid certain coping mechanisms is another reason we offer art therapy here at Vantage Point.
Continuing the Journey
Art therapy is but one of the many steps a person can decide to take on the road to improvement from a mental diagnosis. It’s not meant to be a definitive treatment or a primary form of dealing with a serious mental issue. But it can be your primary path towards finding a way to release yourself from the shackles of your illness. Few people can ever say they’ve cured themselves of a mental illness – many of them are here to stay, and it’s up to us to learn to live with them and not let them dictate how we choose to go about our lives. Art, for some, is a perfect outlet for that.
It doesn’t have to be your end-all-be-all, but it can help you relieve some stress and better come to terms with your condition, perhaps even helping you understand or figure out how to apply the lessons you’ve learned in other therapies and treatments through inner reflection. Art is also a form of meditation – allowing you to explore and focus and actively stretch the limits of your mind, and maybe even solidify your own definition of what it means to be you.
We at Vantage Point won’t try to guess what art therapy can do for you. But we do recommend it to anyone looking to give alternative and supplementary treatment methods a go. The road to overcoming the limitations imposed upon you by your diagnosis can be long, and it doesn’t hurt to try new things along the way.