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The application of art and artistic methods to treat psychological disorders, PTSD, and emotional distress and promote mental health is known as art therapy. It is an accepted fact that regular practice of art is a panacea for a lot of diseases that are triggered by anxiety, stress and depression.
Art helps you bring out that which is within – it is a way to communicate, express and heal yourself. The therapeutic benefits of art, hitherto unknown, were discovered sometime in the ’40s. It was around the same time that universities started offering Art Therapy as a course.
Educators and researchers found that people with psychological problems expressed their mental and emotional turmoil through their drawings. This led many to explore the use of art as a healing strategy. Art is now widely accepted as an important part of the therapeutic field and is used to assess and treat mental conditions and emotional distress.
Apart from art, the pursuit of sports, drama, dance, music and expressive writing has a therapeutic effect on people with psychological problems.
The objective of art therapy is to enable people to explore and discover themselves, develop self-awareness, and tap their potential using the creative process – in doing so, they find new ways to gain personal insight and develop new coping skills.
The process of creating an art project helps people explore and express their emotions and boosts their self-esteem.
Techniques used in art therapy can include:
- Doodling and scribbling
- Finger painting
- Working with clay
Through the creative process, people get to reflect on and analyze what they have made – how it makes them feel. Artworks reflect the conflicts and issues the artist is dealing with at that moment in time.
Art Therapy Can Help With:
Art therapy can be used to treat a wide range of psychological disorders and their physical manifestations. Art therapy is also used in combination with other psychotherapy techniques, e.g. group therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Art therapy is used to treat and manage the following conditions:
- Aging-related issues stemming from loneliness
- Anxiety and stress
- Eating disorders and problems of the gut
- Emotional difficulties
- Family or relationship issues
- Medical conditions
- Psychological symptoms associated with other medical issues
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Psychosocial issues
- Substance use disorder
- Adults experiencing severe stress
- Children experiencing behavioural or social problems at school or at home
- Children or adults who have experienced a traumatic event
- Children with learning disabilities
- Individuals living with a brain injury
- People experiencing mental health problems
Benefits of Art Therapy
There is enough evidence to prove that less than an hour of creative activity can reduce your stress, improve your mood and have a positive effect on your mental health, regardless of artistic experience, skill level or talent (The Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 2016).
A therapist may use a variety of art methods or combination of methods, ranging from drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage. Whatever the method, art therapy benefits the young and old alike – from children to the aged.
Victims of abuse, people suffering from emotional and psychological trauma, physical violence, domestic abuse, stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues can benefit from expressing themselves creatively.