Making art can help when we don't have the words
What is Art Therapy?
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for. - Georgia O'Keefe
Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art materials, such as paints, pastels, sewing, textas and clay. Art therapy combines traditional counselling with an understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process.
Art has the potential to change lives and in profound ways. When words are not enough, we turn to images and symbols to tell our stories. And in telling our stories through art, we can find a path to health and wellness, emotional reparation, recovery, and ultimately, transformation.
Art therapy is the deliberate use of art-making to address psychological and emotional needs. Art therapy uses art materials and the creative process to help in areas such as: fostering self expression, enhancing coping skills, managing stress, and strengthening a sense of self. Art therapy has provided mental health treatment for clients who have experienced trauma, grief and loss, depression, chronic illness, substance abuse, and more.
The purpose of art therapy is much the same as in any other psychotherapeutic modality: to improve or maintain mental health and emotional well-being.
Art therapists are trained to recognise the nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are communicated within the creative process, symbols and metaphors which might be difficult to express in words or in other modalities. Art making is seen as an opportunity to express oneself imaginatively, authentically, and spontaneously, an experience that, over time, can lead to personal fulfilment, emotional reparation, and transformation. This view also holds that the creative process, in and of itself, can be a health-enhancing and growth producing experience.
Although art therapists have generated many specific definitions of art therapy, most of them fall into one of two general categories. The first involves a belief in the inherent healing power of the creative process of art making. This view embraces the idea that the process of making art is therapeutic; this process is sometimes referred to as art as therapy. Art making is seen as an opportunity to express oneself imaginatively, authentically, and spontaneously, an experience that, over time, can lead to personal fulfilment, emotional reparation, and transformation.
The second definition of art therapy is based on the idea that art is a means of symbolic communication. This approach, often referred to as art psychotherapy, emphasises the products–drawings, paintings, and other art expressions–as helpful in communicating issues, emotions, and conflicts. The art image becomes significant in enhancing verbal exchange between the person and the therapist and in achieving insight; resolving conflicts; solving problems; and formulating new perceptions that in turn lead to positive changes, growth, and healing. In reality, art as therapy and art psychotherapy are used together in varying degrees. In other words, both the idea that art making can be a healing process and that art products communicate information relevant to therapy are important.
If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. - Vincent Van Gogh