Art therapy has been making its rounds in the world of therapy. You may have heard about it before, but how much do you really know about it?
While this is definitely not a substitute for medical advice, it is an introduction of what art therapy actually is and what you can expect from a session with an art therapist.
Who knows? This kind of therapy might actually be beneficial for you.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a kind of therapy that involves the client (that’s you!) creating art for personal development and mental wellbeing. Essentially, you’re creating different kinds of art with a therapist who knows how to guide you in the process of personal development.
These therapy sessions can be given on a one-on-one basis or in groups, depending on the setting of where the therapy is taking place. Regardless, you’re in a safe space to create art without any distractions from the outside world.
With art, you’re able to express yourself in a nonverbal way (more on that in the how art therapy works section of this article). This might be easier for you if you have a hard time getting the right words out in a therapy session.
Art therapy is just another great way of processing your thoughts and feelings physically, mentally and emotionally.
What kind of art do you make in art therapy?
In your therapy session, your therapist makes careful decisions about what kind of materials they give you during your session.
This means that you can make lots of art throughdifferent art mediums! During your session, you might be given different supplies to draw, paint or shape. It’s all at your art therapist’s discretion.
The point is, using different kinds of mediums may enhance your therapy session, and your therapist will guide you in that process.
What if I’m not good at art?
In your art therapy session, you can be sure that you’re creating in a non-judgement zone.
You don’t have to be an artist or be naturally creative to benefit from this kind of therapy session. There are lots of misconceptions about art therapy being like an art class, but that simply isn’t true!
Lots of people aren’t Picasso and benefit from creating art. Your therapist won’t judge your technique or tell you how to improve at all.
That’s not the goal.
Since the entire goal of your therapy session is to draw meaning from what you’ve created, telling you how to do your art would defeat that purpose.
Don’t worry about not creating art professionally, your therapist does not care.
Your brain is a powerful thing, and big sections of it will be activated during your art therapy session.
An important thing to realize is that art therapy helps you access the nonverbal part of your brain (something you might have a hard time doing in a regular therapy session).
Essentially, you’re creating art that you’ll be able to interpret with the help of your therapist.
It is Mind, Body and Soul
Making art involves mind, body and soul. Let’s dive right into exactly why all these parts are affected during the therapy process.
Body. You’re using your body to make art. The art making process involves your five senses, whether you realize it or not! Even if you dislike making art, you can easily become immersed while creating.
Your coordinated movement while creating your art therapy pieces can actually help with relaxing your body. That means that your heart rate slows down, your breaths are slower and you can actually improve muscle tone.
So, making art will actually relax your body and prepare you for opening your mind and explore your soul.
Mind. Remember how I said that art therapy unlocks the nonverbal parts of your mind? That may be a difficult thing to achieve in a normal verbal therapy session. When you’re making art, you’re trying to express what’s hidden in your subconscious. Most of your mind is subconscious.
By making art, you’re allowing yourself to process memories or thoughts on a deeper level than just talking about it. You’re able to understand the process way more. Think about it: you store your memories through images, so what better way to process them by making visual art?
Soul. When you’re in an art therapy session, you’re able to achieve this higher sense of self-awareness. When you process what’s in your mind, you’ll be able to take a lesson from it and find purpose in it.
If you want a sense of direction in life, working through your subconscious mind is a great way to start that process.
Art therapy is effective because you’re working on your mind and body.
How do I Know if Art Therapy is Right for Me?
You might be interested in exploring art therapy if you have a hard time with regular talking therapy sessions.
It is a great option if you have a hard time using words to describe your thoughts and emotions. In these sessions, you’re using your art to express yourself, which can save you a lot of time and energy trying to get the right words out in a regular therapy session.
Let me reinterate: You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from this kind of therapy. You do, however, have to be open to new experiences and be ready to interpret the art you’re making. Don’t worry, your therapist will guide you in that process.
If you still aren’t sure if it is right for you, you can always book a session with your local art therapist to get a feel for what happens during an art therapy session. You never know unless you try!
Types of Art Therapy
The sky is the limit in the art world. There are lots of different mediums that you can choose to work with, and an infinite amount of things you can create.
That being said, there are several more popular kinds of art therapy that you might be able to participate in. This is a case-by-case basis and it depends on your therapist.
Have you ever just wanted to word-vomit all of your thoughts and feelings on paper? With writing as your art therapy medium, you can do just that!
With writing, not only can you journal, but you can also use writing to make comics, add words to your drawings, and whatever else you feel like doing.
Not only can you paint how you feel on a blank canvas, you can also add a bit of paint to existing images.
Plus, there are lots of textures you can work with while using paint. Your art therapist may offer you acrylic paint, watercolours, oil paints… the sky really is the limit.
This kind of art is awesome when you want to create vision boards. When you’re making a collage, you’re taking images from different places (ex. magazines and newspapers) and sticking them all together.
This kind of medium is great if you’re struggling with getting started or making decisions.
Textiles are a great medium to use, especially if you have issues with fine motor skills that other mediums might require.
This kind of medium is also useful for sensory purposes, because it gives you lots of textures to work with.
Art therapy is quickly gaining popularity in the world of counselling. While this post is by no means an encyclopedia, it hopefully gives you the basics you need to understand:
What art therapy is
How it works
How you can benefit from it
If you have any more specific questions, I recommend looking for the closest art therapy programs in your area to get started. There’s no harm in trying something new.
Who knows, maybe you’ll do lots of personal development.