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ART AS THERAPY: YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A GOOD ARTIST TO TRY THIS OUT!

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

It might be a bit uncommon to pick up your old brushes and decide to paint every time you feel stressed out or in need of a break. However, a lot of people do resort to creative activities when feeling drained or unmotivated and in need of an escape—be it music, dancing, painting or even just random scribbling. Art therapy, however, is a bit more organized than just that. 

WHAT IS ART THERAPY?

Art therapy is a form of treatment that uses artistic methods to help people open up and understand their own issues. Art therapists encourage people to get in touch with their creative side in hope of enhancing the healing process. Unlike what one may think, this kind of expressive therapy is not just for those who are good artists, but in fact, it’s open to all. Art therapy isn’t about you trying to express the outside world on a canvas but more about what is going on inside you—you don’t need to copy other artworks or figurines but rather express whatever comes to your mind and relates with you. 

ORIGINS OF ART THERAPY

Art has been used as a means of communication and expression since the Stone Age. But art as therapy, however, is a much newer concept that developed in the mid-20th century. The said term was formally coined by British artist Adrian Hill in 1942 after discovering the health benefits of painting.  

Since this practice was not formally developed, key thinkers from other fields of psychotherapy came forward and made significant contributions to encourage the development of art therapy as a field. Margaret Naumburg, also known as the “Mother of art therapy” believed that individuals, especially children, would experience healthy development if they were allowed to express themselves creatively. She viewed creative expression as an alternative for verbal expression—something that would help therapists delve into the repressed and gain insights with the help of the art that an individual would create. 

WHAT CONSTITUTES ART THERAPY?

This form of therapy is not only restricted to painting or drawing but rather a multitude of other creative activities like:

  • Scribbling/Doodling
  • Sculpting
  • Finger painting 
  • Carving 
  • Collage making 

Although all of the mentioned exercises/activities are meant to be conducted under the guidance of a licensed art therapist, the final result of each exercise is supposed to be entirely the work of the individual without any outside influence. 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Unlike more traditional forms of therapy, art therapy does not require an office setting with a couch on one side for you to lie down on while the therapist sits in a chair and listens to you from the other side. Art therapists work with individuals, as well as couples, families and groups, in different kinds of environments like:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Clinics
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Senior care centers
  • Private practice

One might question how art therapy is different from an art class since it’s basically accommodative in every setting and doesn’t exactly look like a therapy session at first. The major difference between an art class and a therapy session is that the former majorly focuses on the individual creating a finished product while art therapy is more about letting the client feel all the emotions they are experiencing and then using those feelings to express themselves through art. There is no such thing as a “finished product” when it comes to therapy but rather creating something that expresses your inner world. 

CONDITIONS TREATED BY ART THERAPY

Since art therapy focuses on letting people express themselves through creativity, it’s highly beneficial for those who feel out of touch with their emotions and have a hard time when it comes to verbal expression. This kind of therapy might help achieve positive results in the following cases:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • ADHD
  • PTSD
  • Eating disorders 
  • Substance abuse disorders

Known to benefit all age groups, art therapy can work wonders for the above-mentioned conditions. However, it can come with its own shortcomings for more severe conditions. Yet, it can still stand as an excellent option for those who find other kinds of therapy difficult or are confused about them.

What do you think about art therapy?

Ishty Yadav

Delhi North '23

a Literature major from Hansraj, who passes time by romanticizing the minuscule.
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