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Art: A Healing Medium

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We all go through difficult times, when we feel we cannot cope or are overwhelmed with negative emotions; these rough times can sometimes give our mental equilibrium a beating. We learn that when we fall and break a limb to go seek medical attention; but what do we do when it is our mental state that is broken? How does one go about remedying that? There is no shame in being open about mental illness; there are many kinds of therapy available; each works differently in order to help patients to ultimately feel better and improve.

Art therapy is one of them; it is not really surprising to think that art is used to heal and help, because it has long been known that art moves the emotions. People have always looked to art to understand life and find joy. Human history cannot be told without the presence of art; it is an integral part of humanity.

Recently, there has been a boom in the availability of coloring books for adults. Many marketed as a form of stress relief and a way to be more mindful; there is truth to that. Art is therapeutic in nature; it helps you access a different part of yourself, and allows you to express yourself in a non-verbal way.

This is in essence what art therapy aims to achieve; it allows individuals to communicate their internal state through art. You can paint, sculpt, doodle, color, or draw to communicate how you feel and what you think. Art therapists are trained in figuring out what colors, symbols, and textures could mean, and unravel the meanings within the art they produce. Art therapy helps people explore their emotions, improve self-esteem, manage addictions, relieve stress, improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, and cope with a physical illness or disability.

Sometimes words fall short; we try to express an idea or feeling that we have experienced, but when we come to articulate, we simply do not know how to. Emotions and thoughts are complex and sometimes lie beyond the realm of verbal expression. By analysing what they produce in an art therapy session, people with the aid of their therapist, can resolve emotional conflicts, and become more self-aware.

People do not have to be talented in arts in order to reap the benefits of art therapy; art therapy is about the freedom of expression and its significance, and not about the artistic skill or talent. Art therapists often use psychological, spiritual, and artistic theories, in conjunction with clinical techniques, to achieve the desired therapeutic outcome. When patients create art, it can make it easier for them to access their own emotions and thoughts, because the physical piece of art makes it more tangible and easier to talk about their issues.

Art therapy is of a great benefit. It reflects our inner lives and allows us explore another facet of who we are. Humans are complex; through art therapy, one can unravel unconscious issues we have and psychological scars that cause us pain. By identifying the problems and issues we have, we can then move on to treatment and healing. Art is after all cathartic, and is a powerful medium for change and development.

 

References

psychology.org.au

goodtherapy.org

arttherapyblog.com

psychologytoday.com

 

*Published in SCIplanet, Autumn 2018 Issue "Science and Art"

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