Art as a form of Therapy
Art as a form of therapy seems like an unlikely combination to those of us whose artist abilities do not exceed the occasional disfigured stick figure. While art therapy can benefit children greatly, it can also be very helpful to adults. Really, anyone can benefit from art therapy. Even if you’re using creative arts as a means of expression without the aid of an art therapist, there are still many benefits to be had.
By expressing yourself through art, you can begin to see things about yourself that you otherwise may not have comprehended. Art can help you process emotions and feelings that you are struggling with, so you can begin healing. Since art therapists are trained in the arts and, obviously, in therapy, they are capable of guiding you through the process of creative expression. They are also quite capable of providing insight into your creations and helping you understand certain aspects of yourself that maybe you didn’t know existed, whether good or bad.
It is the practice of losing yourself within a piece and letting go of your fears and inhibitions that really seems to benefit many people. For example, in our studio here in Somerville, we had a gentleman come in alone walk up to the front desk and ask for a seat in our upcoming class. When asked if he was going to bring a date he said, "Yes, it will be me and my PTSD, but I don't need an extra canvas setup if that's what you're asking." He explained that he was a Marine, he had just come back from a tour in Afghanistan and was looking for a creative output for his post traumatic stress disorder. He would come a few times a month to paint with us, he would always ask to sit in the back of the room, some where inconspicuous. Most importantly he had to sit facing the exit door. When he would come in, although he'd smiley warmly, you could see the tensions in his face and body and the sleepless nights in the bags under his eyes. He would work silently, listening to the instructions given and sip on his iced tea. As the painting comes to a close he would get up, clean his space, push in his chair and as he straightened out and examined his work you could see the benefits in his stance. It was the same look one would have after a long deep tissue massage. He said that just for a few hours all the horrors that plagued him melt away and he could just forget for a second and just... paint.
It is this idea of self-exploration that can often lead a person to some insightful conclusions about themselves or to allow them a few precious moments away from their own thoughts and fears. Don’t be surprised if the effects of art therapy lead to a general sense of relief and overall better mental health. Again, it’s therapy, but with a completely different ingredient than most people are used to, art.