In psychology much importance is given to expression of feelings and communication of ideas, so that the therapists can get to know the client better. For this purpose, they use different analytical measures and use variable material. Art is one such medium that can be used in psychotherapy. Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which art in various forms is used to express the silent emotions and feelings of the client. It combines psychotherapy techniques along with art to improve self expression and can be used as a healing therapy.
The entire gamut of creative arts therapy comprises of dance therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, poetry therapy, whereas art therapy generally means use of artwork in visual form. Art therapy uses drawing, painting, colors, clay work and such other creativity as a form of non-verbal expression to support the healing therapy.
For ages people have practiced art as a passion and as way of communication. However, by around the middle of 20th century, art therapy began to arise formally in Europe and other English speaking countries. During this period, doctors and many others realized that people often expressed their feelings through drawings or paintings. Especially for people suffering from mental illnesses or other similar troubles, where communication becomes difficult, this could be used as a medium of expression. Thus art therapy emerged as a healing therapy.
Art therapy is a part of psychotherapy, where art, as a medium of self expression is used for psychoanalysis. This is based on the principle that there is creativity involved in expressing emotions through art and this process can help in problem solving, managing behaviors, reducing stress and improving self awareness. Art can be used in any form and people can express their feelings and thoughts by dropping down the barriers of fear, suppression and mental block. It is based on the concept that colors, visual pictures and models are the easiest and most harmless way of communicating with people and knowing their experiences.
Art therapy is particularly useful in young children or adults who cannot verbally express themselves, in patients with mental illnesses, those in sudden shock or similar other problems. This is generally done on an individual basis, in group setting or as a family therapy depending on the individual case.
In a typical art therapy session, patients are asked to visualize and create some art work related to their feelings or some experiences that they cannot share verbally. It is the patient who is actively involved in creating the artwork and directs it to an end. After completion, the therapists review the artwork and interpret the meaning of it. Based on the interpretation, the necessary measures are taken. In every session, some art work is performed and the thought process and behavior patterns are noted, based on which psychoanalysis is performed.
These results are kept confidential or restricted to those permitted. For example, in case of children, parents are told about their emotional status and progress. Many a times such artworks reveal certain episodes in people’s lives, that they have never shared with anyone and they have unknowingly suffered the ill effects of suppression.
Art therapy can be used as a healing therapy in many cases ranging from children to adults. Some of the cases in which they are indicated and can be helpful are:
- Those having suffered from a traumatic event or brain injury;
- Those having mental illnesses, unmanageable stress, depression etc;
- Children with learning disabilities or some special needs or those having behavior issues, etc.
The main advantage of art therapy is that, it is a mode of self expression. Some of the additional benefits offered are:
- Awareness – People are often unaware of their own feelings, emotions and needs. This can be a way to self exploration and understanding oneself;
- Stress management – It is a powerful tool that can be used in relaxation of mind by giving a way to the blocked emotions and making an artistic expression;
- Physical relief – Often there are many physical complaints associated with suppressed emotions. Once these emotions are expressed in their art work, their physical complaints also begin to subside;
- Soft skills –It improves communication skills, self- confidence, concentration and stimulates creativity.