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Art Therapy to Overcome Emotional Problems

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 30 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Art Therapy Art Therapy Emotional Art

Art therapy is a unique way to help people with varied emotional difficulties, combining psycho-therapeutic techniques with methods of making art. An art therapist will use art supplies such as chalk, paint and pastels to work closely with a patient, helping them better understand themselves through creative means.

Art therapy is predicated on two main principles. The first is that art therapist believes that making art can, in itself, be an intensely healing process. The second is that art can be a form of symbolic communication, helping people work out their problems symbolically, as is expressed in their art.

It all started in the 1940s, when artists working in psychiatric wards became aware of the fact that art could be the basis for a strong working relationship between therapists and patients. It is now used not only for people with emotional problems or mental health issues, but also for “healthy” people who want to express themselves and get to know themselves better through art.

How it Works

Based on the belief that the process of making art in and of itself can be healing, art therapy allows more to be expressed than simply words. It is an accessible therapy for those who cannot – or will not – rely on language, either because they are too young, have had a stroke, or have other emotional or physical impediments.

People go to an art therapist for a variety of reasons. Some are young children who lack the means to express themselves properly, and can only do so through art. The trained therapist helps them to better understand the issues they are facing in a relaxed atmosphere that is fun rather than threatening.

Others are adults who shy away from open communication, or who simply prefer to show their feelings in an artistic fashion. Rather than deal with issues in a conventional talking therapy, they prefer to talk and make art at the same time, with a qualified therapist who will blend the two activities together for best effect in a safe and comfortable environment.

Areas of Interest

Art Therapy seeks to help people who are dealing with a wide variety of emotional abuse, or mental trauma. It can help people to overcome or cope better with a number of emotional difficulties, including, but not limited, to:

  • Bereavement
  • Eating disorders
  • Brain injuries
  • Autism
  • Problems with adoption
  • Stress
  • Substance and alcohol abuse
  • Divorce
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Bi-polar disorder
  • Dealing with a stroke

Relationship with Therapist

The relationship between an individual and his or her therapist is always important, but when it comes to art therapy it is more of a three-way street. Patients will not only communicate with their therapist, but also with the art they are working on, be it a painting, drawing or sculpture.

Art therapists are trained not only in the processes of art, but in therapeutic processes as well. Most art therapists take on clients not only on an individual basis, but also work in residential communities such as jails, psychiatric hospitals and family centres.

Art therapy can help individuals of any age or background, and no artistic talents or skills are required. If you think that art therapy could help you or someone you care about, look online to find a qualified art therapist or contact the British Association of Art Therapists for more information.

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