Visual Art has been used for centuries as a means of communication, human expression, and conflict resolution. In the modern world, psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, and other mental illnesses are on the rise. While people of all ages are in need of finding ways to relieve stress, art therapy can play an essential role in improving mental health and can have a positive effect on people’s lives. Luckily, you do not have to be a professional artist to experience the benefits of art therapy; people of all ages and experience levels can facilitate and participate in the process.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton (writer)
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is an established, recognized, and effective mental health treatment overseen by licensed professionals that uses creative art processes such as drawing, sketching, painting, or sculpting to help to increase the artist’s feeling of well-being, boost confidence, resolve conflicts, and reduce daily stress or anxiety. The physical vitality which is stimulated through creative activity can uplift moods and provide an outlet away from surrounding negativity. The art-making and pattern-making processes can also prove to be meditative while helping practitioners get in touch with their emotions, and through this, with the existence of their soul.
“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” – Joe Richey (artist)
Art expresses human emotions, feelings, ideas, and thoughts. Making art as a form of therapy can create a powerful form of self-reflection for the artist and can help direct and guide therapists in their diagnosis. As an artist or person practicing art draw or sketches, often they reveal, in both direct and indirect means, how they interpret the world around them.
Choices of colors, although sometimes intuitive, can also represent certain emotions. While the choice of subject matter of an artwork can illustrate the primary focus of one’s attention, subtle cues can also offer insight into someone’s inner working. For instance, levels of anxiety can be read through brush strokes or the weight of certain marks.
Benefits of Colour Therapy
Colors have a psychological impact on the human brain, which is why colors are sometimes used as a complementary therapy to treat different psychological problems. Colour therapy, also referred to as chromotherapy, is a holistic medicine practice that helps to relieve stress and restore balance in the body and mind.
As we take in the various wavelengths of light emitted from certain colors, our brains, both hormonally and biochemically may be stimulated as a result. This physical response can be experienced in the form of sensation, excitement, or relaxation.
A color therapist can then attempt to use particular color frequencies to balance and compensate a person’s psychological or physical condition.
- Red- is a vibrant color used to increase blood circulation and stimulate the mind and body. It is also used to energize people who are feeling tired or down.
- Blue- is a colour of calmness that is used to treat anxiety and depression. It is also helpful for people who experience insomnia.
- Yellow- improves our moods and makes us happy and optimistic. It stimulates the nerves and purifies the blood.
- Orange- increases energy level and stimulates mental activity.
- Green- is a colour of nature that helps relieve stress and anxiety.
- Indigo- is used to treat skin problems.
5 Types of Art Therapy
Different creative techniques can be implemented during an Art Therapy session. Art contributes to healing by building a strong connection between the mind and the body through multiple art forms. The techniques used in art therapy are:
Painting as art therapy provides an immersive form of visual expression, where color and texture are combined in the process of self-discovery. While paintings can be illustrative or depict real objects or events, most painting sessions emphasize a more abstract out-flowing emotion and thought through form and color. Likewise, satisfaction achieved through a discovery of visual harmony in the created piece generates positive feedback for the artist, while a lack of harmony can be seen as an opportunity for continued self-reflection and analysis.
The activity of drawing provides an outlet for thoughts and ideas that are difficult to express in words. Through drawing we can express our experiences with a wide range of symbols and patterns, allowing us to visualize and contemplate our thoughts and feelings in a safe environment.
Sculpture in Art Therapy is a means of externalizing the client’s feelings through representational art objects that one can physically relate to and interact with. A person’s feelings are considered private and are held within. However, an artist’s expressions through sculpture are externalized and given form and weight.
A collage is the creation of one picture from various pieces of already created art. Collage can help to sort the order out of internal chaos. Various images can be juxtaposed together and sometimes offer insights into the inner disposition of the artist. Collage can also provide a visual outlet for those who feel shy or intimated by their lack of drawing experience.
Finger painting in art therapy is a creative way for children and adults to express themselves in a positive, nonjudgmental environment. The advantage of finger painting is its simplicity; the process is quick and easy, which allows clients to quickly and directly unload what they have trapped inside.
“Art knows no prejudice, and art knows no boundaries; art doesn’t really have a judgment in its purest form.” – KD Lang (musician)
If you are seeking an art therapist to aid in diagnosing or treating a known mental or physical condition, consult your physician and look for a therapist who is licensed in both art and therapy.
Art therapy sessions can occur both in private or group settings. They differ also from art classes as art classes are aimed at improving skill while art therapy aims and improving the wellness of the practitioner.
If you, however, are not necessarily looking for professional help but are just curious in seeing what your creative outlets can reveal about your own inner states there are simple activities you can try out such as journaling, doodling, free-writing, or creating a mandala to clear the mind and get in touch with your inner self.