Patients with mental health often have difficulty in releasing negative, pent-up emotions, expressing and overcoming their stress, or exploring and tapping into different aspects of their own personalities. Art, being an expressive medium where artists can pour their thoughts and feelings into, have long been used as an outlet to treat psychological disorders, enhance mental health, and improve overall well-being.
The creative process involved with producing art integrates psychotherapeutic techniques to help people resolve conflicts, develop interpersonal skills, overcome stress, improve self-esteem and behavior, and have insights and awareness. Art therapy integrates psychotherapeutic techniques with the creative process to improve mental health and well-being.
According to The American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is best described as a “mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages.”
How long has art therapy been in practice? Art therapy began to rise in popularity in the middle of the 20th century. Doctors at the time recorded that patients of mental illnesses would frequently resort to expressing themselves, such as their thoughts and feelings that often could not be understood, in drawings or other artworks.
Their findings, after being studied by numerous other doctors, led many doctors and patients alike to try their hand at using art as a strategy for healing. Before long, art had been interrelated with the therapeutic field, helping to guide patients’ energies in a secure environment while also allowing their doctors to assess them properly.
But to what exactly can art extend its helping hand to? There are many cases of mental disorders, and art therapy can be used with many, usually with the help of other psychotherapy techniques. Other techniques would include group therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Art can benefit most commonly:
- Children who suffer from learning disabilities or behavioral/social problems at school or at home.
- Adults undergoing intense or severe levels of stress
- Individuals who’ve suffered or are suffering from brain injury
- Individuals who have gone through traumatic experiences
Art is of course not limited to the above-mentioned situations, as it can provide aid to generally anyone who needs an alternative method of expressing or better understanding themselves. It works the most effective when paired with other developed psychotherapy technique, as these multiple techniques can work together to bring out the maximum improvements of the patient.