Few things in life have the power to stir our emotions and evoke compelling responses in the way art does. In all of its various forms, art is a powerful tool for expression. Through visual means, an artist is able to communicate and connect with others in a way that transcends words, and art therapy utilizes this connection to strengthen recovery.
The compelling quality of art makes it an incredibly useful tool in psychotherapy and counseling. Creative activities, in the form of art therapy, become a type of language that allows people to communicate thoughts and feelings that are too difficult or painful to put into words.
WHAT IS ART THERAPY?The formal definition of art therapy is “the application of the visual arts and the creative process within a therapeutic relationship to support, maintain and improve the psychosocial, physical, cognitive and spiritual health of individuals of all ages.” Put more simply, art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that uses art and artistic mediums to help people explore thoughts and emotions in a unique way.
Art therapy is facilitated by a trained, qualified professional with a knowledge of visual art—drawing, painting, sculpture and other art forms—and the creative process, as well as human development and counseling theories and techniques.
From the patient’s perspective, art therapy does not require experience or special talent. The work is not criticized or judged for its artistic quality, precision or beauty. The methods used, along with the resulting artwork, are more about the emotions expressed and felt throughout the process.
HELPING TEENS EXPRESS THEMSELVESThe use of nonverbal expression can be especially beneficial for adolescents who are navigating the difficult waters of their teen years. Normal developmental changes, family tensions and social challenges may be further complicated by symptoms of mental illness, which affects 20 percent of all youth ages 13-18.
Teens often see art therapy as a nonthreatening form of treatment. The artwork they produce helps the therapist gain a better understanding of the their concerns and life circumstances, especially those situations that are too risky to reveal or too personally embarrassing to relate. This awareness better equips the therapist in efforts to protect and support them.
In art therapy, teens are able to express themselves in a context of gentle guidance that assists them in self-discovery and growth. The creative process helps them develop an understanding of their own inner voice, establish an identity, examine values and morals, question authority and plan for the future.
BENEFITS OF ART THERAPYThe positive results of art therapy are broad ranging and provide benefits for anyone wishing to learn more about themselves or explore the creative arts as a means of self-expression. But art therapy holds specific benefits for those suffering from a wide spectrum of mental illnesses.
Under the guidance of a trained expert, art therapy can help improve various mental and physical symptoms, bringing significant relief and promoting recovery from debilitating mental disorders. In addition to addressing specific symptoms, art therapy offers many general benefits, such as: