Art Therapy

Some argue that the roots of Art Therapy can be traced back to the days of earliest man when they sought to leave their marks on cave walls. Marks that communicated practical information to others and marks that were more about their experiences of life—their story.

Others claim that it began in the 18th century as people sought a more humane way to care for the insane. In the mid-20th century it arose as an independent profession and the term Art Therapy was coined in 1942 by a British artist named Adrian Hill. He discovered the healing powers of the arts for himself before sharing them with others and documenting them in his book "Art Versus Illness." 

The development of Art Therapy as a profession continued in the United States with educators, artists, and psychoanalysts such as Margaret Naumburg, Edith Kramer, Robert Ault, and Judith Rubin. The American Art Therapy Association was founded in 1969 and boasts over 5,000 members today. It organizes conferences,

publishes a journal, encourages research, has a code of ethics, and provides continuing education opportunities to it’s members. In 1993 it formed a separate organization focused on credentialing, the Art Therapy Credentials Board.

 

One of the greatest befits to using Art Therapy is it’s versatility.

First of all, you do not need to have any artistic training or talent to benefit from using art to express yourself. Secondly, the exercises Art Therapists use can be tailored to each person and situation.

One of my favorite things about using Art Therapy is that it gets ‘the problem’ out on paper.

  • Allowing us to separate ourselves from the difficult emotion, debilitating trauma, harmful behavior or negative thought pattern etc.

  • Enabling us to begin to see these things as only partial pieces of who we are...not our primary or sole identity.

  • Making us part of the team searching for a solution instead of the object of scrutiny.

  • Releasing us to see that change is possible.

  • Reminding us that we have made good choices. It helps us gain perspective on what, and who defines us.

In addition to this, Art Therapy has another unique feature—there is therapeutic value in both the art making process AND in the finished product.

During the process (the actual art making) you are given the opportunity to think about how to express your struggles and feelings in a new way. As you get into the flow of art making you relax and enjoy yourself. In this state of mind it’s easy to forget that you’re doing therapeutic work.

The product (completed piece of art) you produce provides a tangible item to discuss and a record of the journey you’ve taken. Using strategic, respectful and open ended questions, Art Therapists help clients look and think about their art and the creative process. This leads to perspective shifts, increased understanding of themselves, greater confidence in personal expression, insights about the cause of the struggle, and flushing out possible solutions.

Art Therapy helps us communicate and express ourselves when the spoken word is difficult because of language deficits, or when there is strong resistance to talking about something because of emotional blocks or traumas. Art allows us to get past our traditional verbal roadblocks and other things that distract us from healing.

 

It has also been shown to have the following benefits: 

  • Self-Discovery--Art Therapy triggers emotional catharsis (The purging and purification of emotions that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension by bringing it to consciousness and allowing it's expression.) 

  • Personal Fulfillment--The creation of a tangible reward builds confidence and nurtures feelings of self-worth. Personal fulfillment comes from both the creative and the analytical components of the artistic process.

  • Empowerment--Art Therapy can help people visually express emotions and fears that they cannot express through conventional means. It also gives them some sense of control over these feelings.

  • Relaxation & Stress Relief--Chronic stress can be harmful to both mind and body. Stress can weaken and damage the immune system, cause insomnia and depression, and trigger circulatory problems (like high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats). When used alone, or in combination with other relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, Art Therapy can effectively relieve stress.

  • Symptom Relief & Physical Rehabilitation--Art therapy can also help patients cope with pain. It can promote physiological healing when patients identify and work through anger, resentment, and other emotional stressors. It is often prescribed to accompany pain control therapy for chronically and terminally ill patients.

Ideas for art projects (a.k.a. directives), and questions to go with them will be given in every section of Hope and Healing at Home's books, videos and course. The goal is to give you options and prompts for aiding conversations, insights and healing, not to create a gallery of masterpieces.

I encourage you to move past the fear that may keep you from wanting to try the art exercises (i.e. “I can only draw stick people,” or “I’m not an artist”).

Give the art a chance...

  • a chance to transform you and your family.

  • a chance to bring hope and healing to your home.

Excerpt from Hope and Healing at Home

References:

Cave painting photo by Photo by Don Pinnock on Unsplash