Let’s talk about healing through art therapy.
Mental illness is extremely complex, so there is not a one-size-fits-all treatment plan.
And even if symptoms for addiction or mental illness are the same, how they get healed various with every person. Therefore specifically tailored treatment plans for each person are necessary.
In addition to more traditional modes of recovery, other treatments can help a person with addiction or mental illness. Holistic activities like mindfulness training, eco-therapy, or yoga are often integrated into a person’s treatment plan. However, art therapy is also a great outlet that can create serenity and focus, while working towards similar outcomes as traditional talk therapy.
Art can be a calming and motivational outlet for many people. Research shows that art can have a powerful influence on a person’s well-being and outlook. Art therapy can help a body filled with stress and fear become relaxed and focused.
Art therapy is a beneficial treatment method when used in conjunction with traditional modes of recovery. For people with co-occurring disorders, art therapy can help manage certain mental illnesses, like depression, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder.
Art is a wellness activity that can change a person’s frame of mind. It can have an impact on emotions and attitude. It can create a sense of purpose and optimism. This is especially important for recovering substance abusers or people suffering from debilitating mental illnesses like major depressive disorder.
Art is deeply associated with feeling and underlying meaning. Through a drawing or interpretation, so much of a person’s inner psyche can be revealed. And in recovery, people will learn how to confront and manage facets of their pain, which may have been previously avoided. Art therapy is one way that this can be done. It can help a person gently recommit their minds to healing and wellness.
Methods of Art Therapy
Art therapy can include a variety of mediums, but typically it refers to any engagement of the hands on practice of art in a therapeutic frame. Being an art therapist is a mental health profession that specializes in a specific therapeutic practice. The American Art Therapy Association uses “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. A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being.”
Art is commonly thought of as drawing or painting. However, art therapy encompasses all methods and mediums. It can include painting and drawing as well as creating collages, sculpting, digital art, journaling, creative writing, and much more. Therapy can take place individually or in groups.
One-on-one sessions can open up the possibility of deeper learning for the client. It allows the therapist to get a clearer understanding of underlying issues that may not arise in traditional talk therapy. Journaling, creating writing, or drawing may reveal thought patterns or scenarios that might not have come up. Studies show “scientific evidence supports that journaling provides other unexpected benefits…writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.”
Group therapy sessions are beneficial for developing bonds with others in similar phases of recovery. Art therapy that takes place in groups can create a sense of support, inspiration, and camaraderie. The trust and connection between therapy members is central to recovery and has the chance to grow in these unique settings.
Healing Through the Arts
Art therapy can help uncover and understand feelings and memories in a different way. This self-discovery is one reason therapy is such a crucial element. It can also improve self-esteem by providing clarity and purpose, while reducing stress. Art can also provide sensory pleasure and generate a positive flood of emotions. It is especially helpful for people with illnesses like addiction, depression, or eating disorders.
Art therapy is also a safe vehicle for working through painful or traumatic experiences and feelings. Journaling, creating writing, or drawing may help a person confront past trauma in a way that they would otherwise be unable to express in therapy or sharing in a group scenario.
Addressing issues is important for healing the mind from a mental disorder or addiction. And art therapy can step in where traditional therapy may stall. Studies show, “the idea that creative expression can make a powerful contribution to the healing process has been embraced in many different cultures. Throughout recorded history, people have used pictures, stories, dances, and chants as healing rituals.27 there has been much philosophical and anecdotal discussion about the benefits of art and healing…” Some people are unable to talk about buried feelings or forgotten encounters, however other modalities can help eradicate obstacles. Healing works through a variety of methods.
Art Therapy Promotes Expression in Non-Verbal Ways
Art therapy promotes expression in all forms. It centers on the rigor and function of the imagination as well as critical analysis. It can help people as they work through their own grieving and recovery process. Making amends with the past requires the hard work of facing pain head on. And art can change how people understand and grapple with those experiences.
While addiction and other mental illnesses push people to avoid and distance themselves from pain, all therapeutic approaches encourage the opposite. Art therapy challenges pain to reveal itself. It does so through written words, images, figures, and drawings. It is an alternative way to make sense of underlying feelings, tension, sadness, and pain.
It gives the mind and inner self an outlet to express itself, without directly engaging in the more difficult aspects. For some, sharing in group settings or talking in individual therapy can be intimidating or impossible. Verbal expression can cause an individual to be self-conscious or even fearful. However, art is a reprieve from pain, yet, it still provides a way to express crucial inner components that need to heal.