What is Art Therapy?
When I tell people I am an art therapist, I am often asked, “Is that therapy for artists?”. Not really. Art therapy is for everyone. You do not need to be an artist or have artistic skill to benefit from art therapy.
Art therapy uses both the mind and the body to help people find healing. It can be done in one-on-one counseling work, or in groups. Art therapy uses both the process of making art and the finished piece to help people find healing. The American Art Therapy Association’s definition of art therapy and art therapist is available here.
How Art Therapy Helps Unlock Your Authentic Self?
Anxiety, depression, trauma, and many other difficult mental health issues often result in overthinking. If you have ever tried a new recipe, or put a puzzle together, you may remember the feeling of creating something new. This feeling is called flow and can feel like “being in the zone” or having an energized focus. Art therapy can help you get in touch with this feeling.
The creative process calms the mind and can help you focus on the here and now. Calming thoughts is often the first step in the healing process.
- Connecting with flow helps release expectations and judgments that we have for ourselves.
Understanding thoughts and emotions is the next step in healing. Unraveling the complicated web in your mind can often be a significant challenge. Art therapy gives you a way to share that inner world without words. A drawing, painting, or sculpture can help share what is going on internally without having to translate it into words. Having a visual representation of this internal struggle can help you understand it better. You and your therapist can then explore possible changes that are needed or wanted.
- Understanding the relationships between specific thoughts and emotions can help us become more mindful and intentional about them.
Learning to control your thoughts and emotions is a process and can lead to fantastic growth. The more in control you feel of your thoughts and feelings, the more confident you can become in exploring your true self. Self-exploration is the process of getting to know your inner self and exploring your potential for growth. One way art therapy encourages self- exploration is by examining the personal meaning of colors and symbols in your art. This therapy can help you connect to your spiritual self and understand your needs.
- An honest exploration of our spiritual self helps us to become the best version of ourselves, our authentic self.
What Does an Art Therapy Session Look Like?
An art therapy session can be held in an art studio or a counselor’s office and is designed to provide you with a safe space to explore your inner world. Your therapist will provide any supplies that you need and help you find ways to translate the picture in your mind into reality. Your therapist should have expertise in any art materials provided to you.
Making art in therapy can be an exciting experience. Your therapist might invite you to explore a feeling or thought through a drawing or a new art material. The goal is to take what is going on inside and make it visible. It does not matter if the artwork is creative, artistic or perfect.
Your therapist may ask some questions about your art to help jump-start a conversation about your feelings and thoughts, or there may be no discussion of the art at all. You get to choose.
Art that you make in session is as confidential as your words. Your therapist will not share your work with anyone else. While the art you make is your property, it may be stored by your therapist until you complete therapy.
Can I Do Art Therapy On My Own?
There are many ways to create therapeutic art on your own. Art journaling, mind maps, body scans, and online art workshops can all be great ways to begin flexing your creative muscles.
But please, keep in mind, there are a few reasons art therapy should be done in session with a trained professional.
Art has a way of pulling up and showing you your “yucky” feelings. A therapist can help you process these feelings as they come up and keep you from being overwhelmed by them.
Also, it can be frustrating when the image doesn’t match what is in your head. A therapist can help you navigate this and find ways to benefit from this process.
One of the most magical things about therapy is being seen, validated, and accepted. A therapist provides a safe space to explore your art without judgment. A counseling relationship is the best place to explore the power of art therapy to help you unlock the wisdom of your inner self.