Art Therapy: Not Just A Pretty Picture

There is another way, a fun way to explore feelings, resolve emotional conflicts manage unhealthy behavioural and addictive habits, develop and improve social skills, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem. And it involves more than sitting on a therapists couch and talking to a stranger for a limited time. While these methods certainly have their place, expressive art therapy is a process, a fun and creative process, which stimulates and engages the hidden artiste in all of us.

As the name says, the art is the therapy- using visual art (drawing, sculpting, painting and other expressive and creative art forms) to restore to wholeness, an individual’s functioning and their personal sense of well-being.

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Art therapy has many uses

From helping individual deal with physical disabilities, war veterans, child abuse victims who can’t put into words their experiences, psychological issues and more for both young and old alike, art therapy is a technique transferable to different situations and yield results

It goes way back to the 1940’s

Influenced somewhat by Freud, Margaret Naumburg is viewed as the “founding mother” of art therapy- encouraging her clients to pencil their dreams and not just talk about them- seeing it as a distinct form of psychotherapy.

It pays special attention to your “inner experience”

It’s not about what’s all about you that counts, but takes you inward to reflect on the meanings images have for you within. Your feelings, thoughts and perceptions are valued and encouraged, with special attention to what lies within.

Art therapy uses many techniques

Drawing and being artistic is fun and lies at the centre of art therapy, but talking adds essential colour to the mix. Voicing various subjects, meaning, depth and insight is the gold discovered at the end of the spectrum. The active imagination technique uses the individual’s artwork to associate it with other feelings and thoughts that come to mind. Using the gestalt method, the artwork helps start a discussion.

Similar to keeping a diary, art therapy is about putting your thoughts on paper- but getting your hands dirty, colourful and often wet in the process. Expressive art therapy is not something that only creatives, arty people or just an activity to keep the kids busy.

It’s an approach to therapy embraced by numerous settings like hospitals psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, in private practice, senior homes, schools and other social and community settings. Individuals and in groups, their inner Picasso is birthed, enhancing their physical, emotional and mental well-being. As research advocates, by tapping into the creative well in the individuals, those who experienced illness, injury, trauma, mental problems or personal growth, the benefits of the artistic side and self-expression brings healing and wholeness.

Author: Nelly Kgoabi

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