Art therapy is the utilization of visual arts in a therapeutic setting. Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses and promotes uninhibited self-expression through creative activities. This helps combat psychological ailments and improve overall mental health.
There are various expressions and types of art therapy. Generally, art healing therapy sessions are carried out by qualified clinicians known as art therapists. These therapists practice in various settings with a wide range of clients to address emotional, creative, and spiritual needs and physical and mental health issues.
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Art therapy is fundamentally valuable for providing relief and coping mechanisms for trauma victims or individuals with significant health or psychological conditions (e.g., traumatic brain injuries, autism, mental distress, and phobias). Research shows that art therapy can positively affect children with special needs and benefit children who experience traumatic events by reducing post-traumatic symptoms.2
Additionally, art therapy techniques are employed in psychotherapy to strengthen social skills, develop cognitive and sensory motor abilities, foster self-esteem, and cultivate emotional resilience.
The primary goals of art therapy are to relieve stress, ease emotional and psychological distress, and enhance personal well-being and functionality. It can also complement conventional mental health treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
By using brain imaging tests, one study found that individuals who participated in creating visual art displayed increased brain connectivity between the frontal and parietal cortices of the brain compared to those who participated in cognitively evaluating art.3
Experts in mental health are aware that there are many facets to human health and that integrated mental, social, or emotional measures can occasionally lead to positive health outcomes. For example, art therapy has been shown to improve mental health for those with depression.
Art therapy is utilized to encourage self-expression, learning of new coping mechanisms, and navigation of emotions. As a result, art therapists frequently integrate art therapy counseling sessions with artistic concepts, such as drawing therapy for depression and painting as therapy. All are brought together with clinical approaches to obtain the desired therapeutic efficacy.
Typical techniques employed during art therapy include:
It can be challenging to differentiate between art therapy and expressive art therapy. Superficially, they may appear to be the same, especially considering that both modalities use comparable therapeutic strategies (e.g., instigating art therapy painting ideas) to ease mental and emotional distress. However, there are considerable differences between them.
Although both expressive arts therapy and art therapy are grounded in the belief that the body and mind will naturally find a way to process and resolve some of their issues through artistic expression, expressive arts therapy is a multimodal therapy approach. It incorporates techniques from various artistic modalities, such as writing, dance, painting as therapy, sculpting, stage plays, and music. In contrast, art therapy is considered a single modality therapy approach primarily focusing on one specific art form: visual arts.
Although many experts support the effectiveness of art healing therapy, some are still doubtful of its technique, particularly due to the lack of corroborating quantitative evidence to back art therapy psychology. In addition, while the purpose of art therapy aims to boost imagination, emotions, or perspective through art, not everyone feels inclined to cooperate fully with this treatment process. This may be due to low self-esteem or lacking confidence in individual artistic abilities.
Other concerns and limitations with art therapy for mental health include the expense of purchasing art therapy tools, locating a suitable place for trauma art therapy activities, and scheduling sessions within a limited time frame. These issues add to frustrations and pressures, which are not indicative of a healthy emotional state.
Art healing therapy plays a significant role in mental health management, as it is widely acknowledged that art therapy techniques can help reduce psychological and emotional stress. Visual therapy supports non-verbal communication pathways and works to enhance cognitive performance, awareness, overall health, life quality, and interpersonal skills.
When considering mental health art therapy, it is important to note that:
Despite common belief, it doesn’t take an artistic genius to explore the various types of art therapy. One of the goals of art therapy is to create a means of expression without worrying about the aesthetics of the results.
While creating art is a part of art therapy methods, the relationship between art psychologists and their clients is intentional and private. This professional relationship is very different from the teacher-student relationships in art classes. Additionally, one of the numerous goals of art therapy is to promote expression and communication, in contrast to art classes, where the main objectives are to experiment or pick up new techniques.
Art therapy for mental illness is not restricted to a given setting, so individuals can practice it in diverse environments that encourage confidentiality. Art therapy for adults and kids can occur in art studios, community health centers, inpatient offices, schools, hospitals, residential treatment centers, etc.
While art is universal and the benefits of art therapy reach individuals of all ages, mental health art therapy is not for everyone as it is not always practical for all types of mental health conditions.
Mental health issues are real and widespread. Fortunately, they can be treated when the proper care is sought and received promptly. Therefore, when considering art therapy for depression, it is imperative to:
The best referral sources are local mental health organizations or primary care physicians.
Health insurance providers can provide a list of art therapy providers covered by your current plan.
Asking about the therapist’s specialty is crucial because not all art therapists specialize in treating the same mental health issues. Get to know your art therapist better to ensure they are the right fit for you.
Knowing what to anticipate by learning as much as possible before enlisting art therapy methods is helpful. This often makes the entire process more engaging.
Art therapists routinely ask how the process feels as sessions go on to gauge and identify any positive developments. This can also provide a guide towards any necessary modifications along the way.
Essence Health and Wellness is an innovative mental health treatment facility with various psychotherapy programs. These programs allow individuals to express their fears, disappointments, and frustrations openly, honestly, and without censorship to aid healing and wholeness. We offer art therapy sessions in a safe and welcoming setting to promote artistic expression and address any mental or physical health difficulties, including co-occurring disorders.
Get in touch with us at Essence Health and Wellness today for more information on art therapy and the programs we provide.