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Healing of Art Therapy

Art therapy is used in hospitals, clinics, rehab facilitites, schools, private practice and in senior centers. It is used with children, teens and adults, older adults and with families and couples. It is used to promote and enhance physical, emotional and mental health by using creative expression. Taking part in artmaking helps decrease anxiety, stress, depression and increase self-awareness, self-esteem, relationship difficulties and behavior and developmental delays while providing insight into one’s life. I explain that art therapy is not an art class though the process might inspire a person to pick up pastels and draw on their own. Children gravitate towards the use of art and approach creativity with imagination and freedom and play without judgment or self-criticism. They enjoy experimenting with new art materials and soon discover creative tools to handle difficult emotions such as anger. Art therapy is beneficial in helping children diagnosed with ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, fear, and the challenges of living with a chronic illness. As we age, we begin to seek perfection in ourselves and, through creative expression, clients can learn to silence the voice of the internal critic and become more self-aware of their negative thoughts and irrational beliefs. I invite clients to let the page hold the feeling(s) where we can explore them together. I suggest to clients that, instead of letting the feeling fester inside of them, why not allow the art to be the container.

If a client has a reaction to an art piece, I provide a safe place to explore the feelings that surface. Many adults are surprised how art can facilitate the expression of feelings and emotions easier and quicker than traditional talk therapy. I explain that when we look at an image of a loved one or a visual image of a place that we have strong feelings for, we many times experience a physical response. It is the same when we create expressive art and images. In the last few years, scientific research has discovered how fear-based emotions, negative thoughts and suppressed feelings can trigger physiological stress on the body in turn directly affecting the immune system. As we begin to heal emotional wounds, the body begins to heal also. One of the goals I have when working with a client is for them to find balance between the right and the left brain. This way, not residing completely in the emotional brain or living stictly in the analytical brain. Through the creative process, I assist baby-boomers better move through life transitions and discover acceptance and peace with the aging process.

Art therapy is a master’s level profession with training in psychology and visual arts. When seeking an art therapist, it is important to work with someone who is trained in the field of art therapy or expressive arts. Many therapists claim to use art, though they are not trained specifically in art therapy. When asked how I work, I explain that I invite clients to take part in an art directive. For instance, I might ask, “What might that anger look like if you put it down on paper?” “What color, shape, or size might it be?” I might suggest that they use their nondominant hand to draw or that they create an image out of clay that represents how they feel that day. Even the simple act of doodling can provide a relaxing and contemplative experience. For people that suffer from anxiety, I many times recommend keeping a doodle journal with them. This way, when they begin to experience worry or anxiousness, they can doodle. If a client feels uncomfortable drawing, I offer alternative art forms, such as collage using magazine cutouts.