Ways art therapy can help ourselves and others

A light touch of cerulean blue, a wondrous swirl of royal purple, some striking dots of yellow, and a confident stroke of viridian green. From finger painting to charcoal sketching, art is a common outlet to relax during or after a school day, but for art therapists, it can be a way to change someone’s life.

Art therapy is a field in mental health services meant to give people of all ages a method to process emotions and learn how to express themselves. Art therapists serve diverse populations with all kinds of needs.

They can be found in hospitals or in clinics, helping patients diagnosed with cancer to work through their emotions. Art gives them a sense of accomplishment and control, and helps them escape temporarily from the dreary hospital life. Art therapists can also work with children who struggle in school, who have personal problems, or who have disabilities.

Art therapy is particularly useful for anyone that might not feel comfortable describing their feelings verbally but are receptive to visual expressions through the arts. Art therapy is helpful for everyone, not only people with illnesses or disabilities! Anyone that is interested in learning more about themselves can dive right in with an art therapist who will help you learn about creative expression, no prior artistic experience or mastery needed.

How exactly does art therapy help individuals? Art therapy is a relatively new field, but in last few years, researchers have been trying to pin down what exactly makes art therapy effective. In 2015, a study was done to gauge what patients felt and thought compared to what art therapists claimed were the effects of art therapy.

The researchers found that patients’ responses largely matched what the therapists claimed were the positive effects of the therapy. They found that the “artwork facilitates personal integration by bringing together conflicting emotions, thoughts, and/or behaviors into one coherent image”. The patients also self-reported better emotional regulation and felt that art therapy was a better way to access unconscious emotions than other verbal therapies.

Overall, the study gave art therapists a boost of confidence in their ability to help patients deal with their problems, but the research did touch on how art therapy is not always the easiest way to open for everyone. The good news is that there are also music therapists and dance therapists for those who prefer expression through music or movement.

There is nothing wrong with traditional verbal therapies, but these are other venues for people if they feel verbal therapy is not working. If you ever decide to seek out a therapist or become a therapist, whatever therapy you choose has the potential to improve your life. Art, music, or dance therapists will always guarantee their commitment to help you live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Has art ever helped you through a difficult time in your life? Have you ever been to an art therapist? Share with us your experiences down in the comment section below!