We create art for various reasons: to communicate, to convey our feelings and emotions, as well as to preserve history. Every person has a reason to create art and no matter what that purpose is, creating art brings healing. Since the 1940s, mental health professionals and artists have explored the therapeutic wonders of art. Hence, the term “art therapy” was coined. For many years, art therapy has been used to facilitate people with trauma, mental disorders, physical illnesses, and stress management problems to cope up with everyday living by creating artwork. How art heals differs from person to person – it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer or solution. Instead, art therapy practitioners assess individuals who go through this type of therapy before recommending different activities for each person. However, if there is one thing that applies to all, it would be that art therapy is beneficial for everyone, no matter what their circumstances are. With that, let’s discuss more about art therapy and the therapeutic benefits alongside it. So, if you wanna learn more about the topic to help yourself heal, keep on reading this article to learn more.
Art was created by our ancestors to adapt with the evolving environment around them as well as to solve issues. Thus, it’s amazing how creative expression is used not only to communicate and express ourselves, but also for healing, especially since the discovery of art therapy in the 1940s. At the time of the rising cases of mental health problems, psychiatrists, based on studies, noticed that people who suffer from extreme conditions such as issues of mental health, communicate their feelings through drawing, painting, and creating various forms of art. With these findings, more professionals and researchers were prompted to study the integration of art in therapy.
More About Art Therapy: Definition, History, Who Can Try
What is Art Therapy?
In the simplest terms, art therapy is the use of creative means and artistic expression to treat mental illnesses and improve physical and mental well-being. It is an art-based practice relying on the belief that creativity and self-expression may promote healing and good mental health. The main purpose of art therapy is to use the creative process of creating artworks to assist people in exploring the effects of exploring oneself that can help them discover new methods to obtain self-awareness which leads to new healthy coping mechanisms.
A Brief History of Art Therapy
Art therapy was only recently established as a distinct and widely acknowledged therapeutic practice, in the mid-twentieth century. Art therapy as a profession emerged independently and continuously in the United States and Europe. A British artist named Adrian Hill created the phrase "art therapy" in 1942 after discovering the bountiful health advantages of painting and drawing while rehabilitating from an illness.
Since there were no official art therapy courses or training courses available during his time, care providers who practiced art therapy were generally trained in other fields and monitored by specialists in mental health care, including psychologists and psychiatrists.
Who is Eligible for Art Therapy?
Everyone deserves to express their feelings and emotions. A lot of people can’t put these into words so art therapy can help them release their thoughts through creative expression. People suffering with physical conditions, mental health issues, stress and anxiety management, as well as those who are overwhelmed with everyday life are free to try art therapy.
How Art Heals: What You Can Gain From Art Therapy
Everyday life is overwhelming to everyone. Regardless of skills and talent in art, this form of therapy can be used to help you cope up with stress that you get from different factors: family life, professional career, personal life, school, social life, etc. Art in a sense, can be used as a distraction from reality. Many people who practice art therapy claim that creating artworks, regardless of form and type, is a great stress reliever for them. It gives them a method of release for heavy emotions that are hard to express verbally, as well as a way to divert their minds from negative thoughts and self-destructing behaviors. Moreover, it provides them with an opportunity to enter a state of "flow" that restores their energy and senses.
Physical pain management:
Art therapy reduces feelings of physical pain by shifting focus away from the unpleasant feeling of pain in your body. Thus, art therapy is more than just a distraction from pain and physical illnesses; it is a method of teaching you how to calm down and divert your mood so that the pain does not dominate your frame of mind. According to art therapist Kelsey A. Skerpan, [it is important to remember that] "art therapy can not replace the need for pain medicine, but it may be utilized as an effective supplement and minimize perceptions of pain experiences." A 2018 study published in The Arts in Psychotherapy revealed that participation in art therapy even for 50 minutes can lower pain levels, anxiety, and improve a person’s mood.
Improved self-esteem and confidence:
Every time a person finishes a work of art, a sense of accomplishment is gained through satisfaction from efforts as well as the compliments they get from others once they show their art. Several findings from different research studies reveal that participating in art therapy for less than an hour can help in improving a person’s perception of self-worth. It can also help in increasing self-esteem and confidence.
Individuals take themselves along the journey of self-discovery during the creative process of making art, and it helps them to overcome emotional hurdles from the past and connect with themselves and other people in the present.
Are you dealing with unresolved trauma, wounds from the past, and complicated emotions? Well, art therapy can help you deal with these types of issues in a healthy, productive, and non-self-destructive manner. Dealing with things from the past is very difficult, especially if you don’t know how to open up, even to professionals. However, art gives you the opportunity to release the pain that you accumulated from the past by helping you create a visual narrative in your canvas.
Mindfulness and other mental health benefits:
A lot of people are having a hard time concentrating in the present moment because they tend to think about the past and worry about the uncertain and unknown future. But what can we do to avoid this situation and how do we improve mindfulness, or the state of being aware in the present moment? That’s where art comes in– it helps you to declutter your thoughts while you concentrate on the present moment. Instead of overthinking, art shifts your attention to what you’re doing in the present– the way your brush moves, what to do in your canvas, the colors that you’ll use, etc.
Moreover, it has been well-established in many research studies that art therapy can help in addressing mental and psychological issues such as PTSD and depression.
You don’t have to be artistic in order to try art therapy as a form of therapeutic healing. Anyone can be creative and art therapists and specialists can help in bringing out the creativity in you. Remember that recovery is possible and art can help you speed up your recovery.