Art therapy can be a beneficial tool in the treatment and recovery of mental health disorders. While talk therapies are crucial, not everyone responds equally well to all forms of therapy. Art therapy provides an alternative approach focused on creative expression and discovery. An essential aspect of any treatment plan is finding the method that works best for you.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is an alternative form of psychotherapy that uses creative expression to promote self-discovery and coping skills development. The American Art Therapy Association defines the process as “an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”
Art therapy may involve painting, sculpting, drawing, or creating collages or other creative media. A trained art therapist will be involved in these sessions, either observing the creative process or engaging directly with the art and artist. This process can help raise self-esteem and creates an outlet for people to express their emotions.
All age groups can benefit from art therapy, from children to adults. It is also a process that can be done individually or as a group. Group therapy is most likely to be done with families or people in relationships.
Truly great art can be created through the art therapy process. However, it is important to know that no artistic skills are needed for art therapy to be effective. The ability to express one’s thoughts and feelings is far more critical than creative talent during this process.
Art therapy was coined as a potentially beneficial process in 1942 by a British artist named Adrian Hill, who had personally discovered the therapeutic effects of art while recovering from an illness.
How Does Art Therapy Work?
Art therapy can be beneficial in different ways depending on the individual and condition being treated. Because the method focuses on self-expression, art therapy can benefit anyone going through an internal struggle. People suffering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or those trying to heal past trauma can all see a great benefit from art therapy.
As people create art, it becomes the art therapist’s job to help them analyze their projects. Often without intention, people carry similar themes across the art they make. These themes can be based on internal conflicts, past trauma, or the hope of the future. By exploring these themes with an art therapist, patients can better understand their conflicts and the causes of their feelings and behavior.
The mere process of creating art can be a meditative one. Art therapy might reveal to someone in recovery that they feel at peace when drawing or sculpting. This can be a vital coping mechanism in the future to help prevent relapse or harmful behavior.
The presence of art can also be a force unrelated to the creative process. Art has been shown to provide a relaxing effect on people and create a healthy environment for the creative process to take place in. Studies have shown that art displayed in hospital settings or environments designed to promote recovery positively impacted the mental health of the patients.
What Does an Art Therapy Session Look Like?
Art therapy should begin like most psychotherapeutic approaches: a conversation should occur between the therapist and the patient to talk about what they are looking to accomplish together. The art therapist may have a preferred method of artistic creation or ask what the client wants to try.
The therapist may observe the artistic process, or they may want to engage and participate. When the art is finished, the therapist may ask questions about both the art, its meaning, and the process.
The goal of this appraisal is to allow people to portray their feelings and perceptions without using words. Many people have a challenging time speaking to therapists, especially in the early stages of treatment. Art therapy allows them to express their thoughts without directly saying things they may be uncomfortable talking about.
Traditional art classes are focused on teaching people different techniques to improve their art. In contrast, art therapy does not worry about the technical aspects of art and instead emphasizes the self-expression that occurs during the creative process.
When Is Art Therapy Used?
This approach can be used for a variety of different conditions. Art therapy has been proven to help people dealing with conditions such as:
- Anxiety and stress
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Substance abuse
- Healing from past trauma or abuse
- Emotional recovery from medical diagnoses, such as cancer or other major health issues
Various businesses or programs may offer art therapy sessions. Art studios may host special events that bring in a therapist and focus on expression over technical aspects. Private therapists may hold sessions in their offices as well.
Schools or universities may offer these programs to help students deal with stress. They are also commonly offered within the mental health and substance abuse treatment industry. Recovery centers, hospitals, and shelters may offer programs at times that can be immensely helpful to individuals in crisis.
At Warner Park Recovery, we’re here to help individuals and families by providing exceptional addiction treatment options. We’re a dual diagnosis (mental health combined with substance abuse treatment) program that offers partial day, intensive outpatient, and traditional outpatient levels of care. We regularly treat patients from the Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Topanga Canyon, The Valley, and Thousand Oaks areas. If you are looking for help with addiction treatment, please give us a call to learn more about our professional services!