Art therapy is a human service profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. Art therapy practice is grounded in the knowledge of human development, psychological theories, and counseling techniques. Art therapy is an effective treatment for persons experiencing developmental, medical, educational, and social or psychological impairment. A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore the client’s functioning and his/her sense of personal well being. (http://www.atcb.org/what_is_art_therapy/, 2011)
Occasionally, a client will tell me that they cannot draw or they are not good at art and for these reasons, they are resistant to even try. A personal ability to draw or paint “well” is completely unnecessary to engage in art therapy! Many people, including very talented artists, can face a empty canvas or a blank piece of paper and feel lost or intimidated. Art as therapy focuses on the process of creating art, relying heavily on the unconscious mind to create spontaneously, rather than focusing solely on the end product that is created. A painting of simple colors, shapes, and lines can be equally therapeutic and informative as a painting of a descriptive image. All that matters in art therapy is the ability to drop what the ego is telling us, i.e. what we can and cannot do, and begin to develop your relationship and communication with our selves, both consciously and unconsciously.
In traditional psychotherapy, the client and therapist rely heavily on the client’s ability to clearly communicate what they are feeling. Using art can help facilitate this process when the right words may be hard to find or even sometimes just simply too hard to say out loud. Materials used in creating art are the carriers of the emotional state of the artist. (Moon, 1998) Through art therapy’s therapeutic containment and structure, the client can produce a product, representational of any expression, without an overly demanding verbal experience. The use of art therapy interventions provide an opportunity to re-experience conflict, and then to resolve and integrate resolutions. (Levick and Moon, 1983, 1998)
Best of all, doing art is fun, relaxing, and an opportunity to leave the world behind allowing us to just be present in the moment. Most of the time, our lives are full, busy, and overly demanding of our time, leaving little time for us to enjoy what truly really matters to us. Sometimes we all need a little help in regaining balance in our lives. Psychotherapy and the exciting world of art therapy can be one extremely useful way in gaining the skills needed to once again achieve overall well-being.
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