Written by Soo Yeoun Lee, Board-Certified and Registered Art Therapist & Licensed Creative Art Therapist (USA)
Here at AHS, we are starting to provide art therapy services. Some of you might have heard about art therapy before and are familiar with it. If you are not, you may think it’s only for children and/or seniors. You may also think that you must be an artist to seek art therapy services or an art therapist will teach you artistic skills. You might think that an art therapist will be able to read your mind from your drawings. The answers to above questions are both yes and no, and here is what you can expect from art therapy.
First of all, art therapy is a type of psychotherapy and facilitated by a professional art therapist. Art therapy effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. According to American Art Therapy Association, Art therapy can be used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.
There are a few different ways of incorporating the use of arts in a therapy practice.
Using arts as a medium to express yourself and self-exploration
Anyone can benefit from art therapy, not just children or seniors, as one would think. Oftentimes, feelings are hard to be captured, depicted, or expressed in a verbal language, and people need some time to understand and process what is going on inside them. One’s unconscious feelings and thoughts can come out as a form of art, and it can promote deeper understanding of self.
I sometimes give certain directives to my clients so they can explore their feelings, situations, thoughts, etc. For example, I might ask you to draw a scene where they felt out of control, explore if there were any external distractions or something you were pre-occupied with, and then ask what you would change if you could. This process can help clients to obtain new perspectives, insights, and coping skills.
Unleashing your creativity!
There are no rules in art making in art therapy and no one to judge you or your artwork. You are the artist in the room, and you are the only one who can explain about your artwork. You don’t have to have or learn all the different artistic skill sets as if we were in an art class. If lacking certain skills hinders your healing journey, an art therapist may demonstrate a few skills so you will have the means(language) to portray what’s on your mind. You will be able to gain a sense of mastery and achievement in this process.
The art making process itself can be therapeutic. Stimulating one’s creativity can make them feel relaxed, refreshed, playful, and comfortable. You will use art to express yourself and can do anything as long as you keep yourself and others safe. Concentrating in the art making process can make you feel relaxed and carefree and have a moment to be away from your problems. You can fantasize about anything and portray your wild imagination on paper. While you are connecting with your creativity and potential, you can learn self-control, have fun, and build good experiences and relationship with self.
Looking at masterpieces together: safe way to start a conversation!
What thoughts come to your mind when you see the Apples (1878) by Paul Cezzane? Some might connect with their own memories regarding apples, such as an apple they ate in the previous morning, an apple picking trip they went on with their loved ones, or an apple pie they made for the first time. Others might focus more with the feelings the masterpiece gives away; a sense of loneliness from the tone and texture, or composed and relaxed feeling from repeating brushstrokes. For some people, it could be hard to dive right into a conversation about themselves or problems in the beginning of therapy process. Looking at related artworks and following where your mind goes could feel safer and in control.
We hope this article gave you an idea of what to expect when entering art therapy. You won’t be pressured to make art or talk about art all the time in art therapy! Art is considered one of communication methods, and it’s absolutely okay to not want to make any art on some days.
** If you are interested and feel like you might benefit from art therapy, please contact our inquiry team at 02 – 749 – 7915 / [email protected] to find out more.