I have to admit, I’m a skeptical person. I am also a traditionalist when it comes to art making. I’ve always approached art making from an analytical approach. I’m not opposed to Emotionalism, it’s just never really appealed to me. Combine my natural skepticism, traditional approach to art making, and my aversion to Emotionalism and art therapy has never really been “on my radar”.
Recently, however, people have entered my life that have made me reconsider the merits of art therapy and its benefits to those who participate in it. I decided to take a further look at art therapy and find out what exactly it is all about and make an more informed decision on its merits.
So, what is art therapy anyway?
Art therapy is a form of therapy in which the creative process of creating art acts as a psychological treatment. It falls somewhere between art and psychology. The finished product is often irrelevant when it come to art therapy. Instead, it is mainly about the process of making the art. Since the act of creating art can be a soothing activity, it becomes a therapeutic endeavor for some people. The act of moving paint over a surface, making marks, or working with clay can provide a calming experience for participants. Because the focus of art therapy is heavily weighted on process, art experience is not necessary for participants to benefit. This means that virtually any age or skill level can potentially benefit from practicing art therapy.
Beyond providing a relaxing activity, art therapy can also provide other benefits to its participants.
Artists already know that creating art is a means of visual self expression. If you’ve been creating art for a while, like me, you may have become accustomed to the release of expression that happens when you create art. In other words, you may have become numb to the benefits of expressing yourself. However, most people are not artists and don’t have the outlet of self expression inherent in creating art. For these people, art becomes a new means of communication and expression. It’s also a means of expression that they may have never experienced before. It also gives people an avenue for expression outside of spoken word. Art can communicate what is often difficult to say or even put into words. Art then becomes a means for emotional expression.
Art therapy can also act as a diversion. Individuals dealing with grief or great emotional distress may find the act of creating art to be a temporary diversion from their feelings.
Art therapy can also make an individual more self aware and improve social interactions with others.
In fact, many famous artists throughout history have used to art to deal with an issue, explore the meaning of life, or express struggles with emotions.