We live in a world where stress shadows our daily life. Be it children at school or grandparents at home, we all are stressed and feel incapable of coping with the demands of the environment. Most often, we are unsure of our emotions, unable to identify what is wrong and the pressure seems enormous. We hear students commit suicide as they feel burdened by their studies and the pressure that they have to face from their parents, relatives and society seem intolerable to them. Parents have their own concerns that contribute to stress in their lives. Stress has become a part of our lifestyle now and we consider it to be normal. However, prolonged stress can have devastating consequences. There is a dire need to inculcate positive strategies that help people cope with these stressors.
Art therapy allows us to see things about ourselves which we can never comprehend otherwise.
Traditional methods of therapy have been extremely efficient but the use of art has benefits that can leave us spellbound. We all are aware of the stigma attached to seeking a therapy or going for counseling but 'Art' as a mode of therapy can be really beneficial for those who are hesitant to express themselves through words. The use of art evokes a sense of introspection in a way, no other therapy can.
What is art therapy?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art as a mode of expression and communication. It is often referred to as expressive arts therapy as it utilizes self-expression in treatment or therapy. The use of art in the field of psychology is not a new concept and has its roots in history. The work of art may have been said to be initiated by Sigmund Freud- the father of psychoanalysis. Freud mentioned the use of art in the defense mechanism- Sublimation, where the individual uses art as a method to express his/her unconscious desires in a socially acceptable manner. For e.g.: A painter who fantasizes about naked women may express his fantasies in his paintings which are appreciated by his friends and society.
Art in any form is conducive to well-being: social, emotional and physical. In fact, with every new form, there is a new insight and a new understanding. The various forms of art that are used for therapy include dance, drama, poetry, music, play, and art.
A therapy full of wonders!
The benefits of art therapy are innumerable, from aiding in reducing stress to helping patients with severe mental illness, art therapy can do wonders. This therapy may be used as a part of the treatment strategy for a wide variety of behavioral, emotional, and mental health problems. These include:
- - ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
- - Social challenges which may commonly include anger issues.
- - Eating disorders.
- - Depression
- - Anxiety
- - Post-traumatic stress disorder.
The most notable benefits of expressive arts therapy are:
Promotes self-expression, feelings, and emotions- we all have an innate ability to express ourselves and our emotions. Some may do it verbally while for some art may play a major role and help overcome the barrier of language and words.
Increases attention span - Researches reveal that most of our thoughts are about the same thing going in and out. Art helps to reduce this chaos which occurs in our mind and helps us focus and thus increasing the attention span.
Increase awareness and consciousness - Art not only helps an individual express himself better but also helps the person to explore himself and be more self-aware.
Enjoyable and fun filled than a regular therapy procedure - Expressive art undoubtedly is a therapy encompassing a package of learning and introspection through enjoyable activities.
Enhances motor and coordination skills - Intensive use of gross and fine motor skills is a marked entity in any form of art. It adheres to all age groups from all cultures.
Increase problem-solving skills- It enhances the cognitive abilities and enables swiftness and quality in problem-solving abilities.
Gives confidence and boosts self-esteem- Art gives the liberty to be yourself and express the true self. It gives a rush of confidence to showcase your best and let go of inhibitions.
Instills curiosity and divergent thinking- The trigger of creativity induces unique ways of thinking. It gets the right brain working and enhances the explorative tendency in a person to find new perspective every task.
Techniques in Art Therapy
As discussed earlier, Art therapy does not constitute a single, sole or fixed method of treatment but a combination of various art forms which the facilitator combines according to his/her understanding and creativity. People usually live with the misperception that to get the benefits of art therapy, one needs to face in those forms but it is not so. Just a few strokes, some random moves, a mix of tunes is helpful given that you enjoy what you are doing. Moreover, the list of techniques to choose from is abundant and the client usually relates to one of them. These include:
Poetry therapy and bibliotherapy are used to describe the intentional use of poetry and other forms of literature for healing and personal growth. Words make a huge impact and have the power to transform a person.
Play therapy is the use of a therapy involving interpersonal trust and bonding wherein trained play therapists to use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and help them grow.
Sandplay therapy is a creative form of psychotherapy that involves the use of a sandbox and a large collection of miniatures to enable a client to explore the deeper layers of his or her psyche in a totally new way, by constructing a series of “sand pictures,” a client is helped to illustrate and integrate his or her psychological condition.
Mask making, Clay-moulding and Pottery are some of many tasks that enhance creativity and fine motor skills. It gives a tactile stimulus to the person that calms the senses. it is highly effective for people with frequent anxiety complaints.
Finger painting may be used as a form of projective play and in a typical session the therapist will describe the process, but will not suggest a specific topic or the color to be used. Instead, he/she may provide broad instructions such as “paint something you love the most” The therapist observes the content of the picture and behavior of the individual while making it. Once the picture is finished, the therapist will ask the affected individual to tell a story about the painting.
Dance/ movement therapy (DMT)
Our bodies hold impressions. This statement may seem vague but carries a whole lot of meaning. The experiences we go through may not always be retained in out memory but our bodies make sure to hold them through.
In a case of a girl with extreme anger issues, months of therapy was going in vain until one day she was asked in an exercise to keep a balloon afloat just by using her nose and it was surprising that this exercise acted as an icebreaker and the girl began to open up about her issues as she would play a similar kind of game with her brother in her childhood. Her relationship with her brother was seen as a major concern to help the patient overcome her anger issues and then the treatment took no time to help the patient heal.
This is a mere example of the miracle dance and movement therapy can perform. In other cases, several other partially paralytic patients from old age homes were made to recover from their depressive moods by just observing their fellow mates performing to music. Such is the power of dance movement therapy. This therapy is a way to help the client tell his/her story and perform catharsis using bodily movements. It is based on the simple assumption that mind and body are linked. Benefits of dance movement therapy include stress reduction and mood management. For patients with eating disorders, this can help improve self-esteem and body-image. It is different from any other form of exercise as it utilizes movement to communicate the unconscious and conscious desires and feelings through dance.
Not just as a form of therapy, most managers of a chain of stores use this strategy wherein before the store is made to open, all the staff members are supposed to dance for a few minutes and then start with their work. Thus is based on the fact that good mood leads to better performance.
Art therapy is the purposeful use of visual arts materials and media in intervention, counseling, psychotherapy, and rehabilitation; it is used with individuals of all ages, families and groups ( Edwards, 2004; Malchiodi, 2012).
Research indicates that art therapy can help reduce feelings of isolation, can help improve communication and concentration. This is useful for people of all age groups but may have better results for children as they are more oriented towards choosing art as a means to express themselves. Various techniques are used in this therapy such as painting, finger-painting, doodling, scribbling, carving, making pottery etc. are also noted to help in catharsis and self-awareness. The amalgamation of expressive arts in the curriculum of the education system shall do wonders and may help alleviate the present condition of the education system.