Art is one of the most important ways students learn, no matter what age they are. From children, we’re drawn to coloring, drawing, and otherwise creating things from our imaginations. As adults, this intuitive nature shows up in physical and mental health facilities, like those in Costa Mesa and Corona Del Mar, as something called “art therapy.”
This activity falls under the category of psychotherapy. It’s a way that people can process and express their feelings when they don’t know how or feel safe doing so in words. Through the action of creating artwork, the artist is healing their damaged emotions.
How does art therapy work, and what can it heal? Here, we’ll get into the details of this incredible but simple therapy.
Art Therapy, Defined
Art therapy has a professional organization, the American Art Therapy Association, with over 5,000 members. The association is dedicated to the definition, research, and practice of art as a therapeutic, integrative mental health and human service progression.
Scholars have understood the usefulness of art therapy in children for decades, but the benefits for therapeutic situations such as substance abuse and cancer recovery are only just scratching the surface. Through research, experts have learned that integrating art therapy with medical treatment increases recovery rates and satisfaction while decreasing negativity and depression.
How Art Therapy Works
When a patient is introduced to art therapy by a trained therapist, they learn how to use their creativity as an outlet for their emotions. This process sounds simplistic, but an art therapist is a master-level clinician skilled with working one-on-one or in small groups with those who have mental health disorders or progressive diseases that often lead to depression and anxiety.
Through art therapy, the patient creates products. This is done with various types of art, including pottery, painting, drawing, and other artistic avenues. The act of creation activates parts of the brain that release serotonin — happy hormones. Creating art impacts brain wave patterns and calms the nervous system. When performed in a clinical setting, such as a hospital, school, or rehab facility, the act of making art can be strategically therapeutic.
Research shows that art therapy can reduce distress or conflicts in the mind, boost thinking patterns and functioning, and increase self-esteem and social skills. However, the connection between art and therapy isn’t child’s play. Using art as a complementary treatment alongside medical care takes a holistic approach. The medicine and treatments work on the symptoms of the disease, while art therapy addresses the mental aspect.
With art, patients feel confident expressing their feelings. Finished products bring about a sense of satisfaction and self-worth. And the act of creation boosts positive feelings like happiness and reduces negative feelings of anger and depression.
Working on Art Therapy with a Professional
If you’ve been coping with mental health issues or life is getting too stressful to handle alone, art therapy may be a tool you can use to reduce your stress. Through creative movement, drawing, writing, or even coloring, you’ll activate the necessary parts of your brain that make you feel better. To do this therapeutically, contact an art therapist near you.
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