5 Reasons Why You Should Try Art Therapy

The start of May marked yet another Mental Health Awareness Month - a time where people pay especially close attention to the state of their overall mental well-being. While the nurturing of mental wellness should be practiced year round, this formal recognition for the whole month is a step in the right direction towards destigmatizing mental illness once and for all. That being said, the discussion of how to approach mental illness and what practices can help to diminish it is especially important for people currently suffering, which is why I must emphasize something that completely changed the way I care for my mental health: art therapy! Keep reading to find out if art therapy is just what you need to continue your journey of self care and wellness.

  1. 1. It doesn’t feel like your typical therapy session

    Everyone is different when it comes to therapy and finding ways to cope with mental illness. Some people hate therapy while others love it, and some people plain and simple just don’t think they need it. Whatever it may be, art therapy is the solution for those who dislike traditional therapy because it combines talking therapy with creativity - something people often don’t realize they’re missing. If you’re like me and talking therapy alone just isn’t your thing, then you will be amazed at how easily it is to open up to someone once your mind focuses on painting, sculpting, or whatever it is you are creating in that moment. Another great thing about art therapy is that you don’t have to have a single ounce of artistic ability (trust me, I would know) and you can do other forms of art such as writing, photography, or music during a session once you find the right therapist. The opportunities are truly endless!

  2. 2. You will discover things about yourself that you never knew before

    Going back to being amazed at how easy it is to open up once you’re focused on the actual art, you will also be amazed at how much you will uncover about yourself through your artwork. If you are working with a great therapist like I did, they will be able to pinpoint certain things about your work that may be connected to your current struggles based on what colors you use, what shapes you make, and what pictures you are depicting. Again, if you are not into talking then this is perfect to start the conversation in itself because your artwork will do the talking for you. Once that happens, talking through all of the potential hidden meanings of your work with your therapist will leave you feeling less burdened than when you walked in.

  3. 3. Your creativity will start flowing

    For many people, doing creative activities is a form of therapy. However, when you’re feeling depressed or anxious it’s incredibly easy to lose all motivation and desire to pick up your journal and start writing or pick up a paint brush and express how you feel on a blank canvas. Art therapy forces you to open up your mind and let the creativity flow gradually, and honestly it feels so effortless that you don’t even realize the creativity flip switched until you finish your work of art. Not only will art therapy help you to work out your subconscious battle with mental illness, but it will also help you to overcome that creative roadblock you’ve been suffering through for weeks on end.

  4. 4. You leave feeling accomplished

    No matter what you create during your session, even if it doesn’t look like a professional made it, you will leave feeling accomplished. For people struggling with mental illness, it is a challenge to even get out of bed some days, so the fact that you made it to art therapy and left with something you put your time and energy towards is a huge accomplishment whether you realize it or not. What I’ve especially learned on my mental health journey over the years is to celebrate the little victories you make, no matter how small they are, because you are in a completely better place now than you were yesterday because of that victory. It is a confidence booster and inspiration in itself just to know that you created something that will help you in the long run, and it is a cause for celebration that yes, you did get out of bed today even though the thought of facing the day seemed unimaginable.  

  5. 5. You are investing in your mental health

    The final reason why you should try art therapy is probably the most important one - you are investing in your mental health. This can apply to any form of therapy as well, but by taking the time to go to a session, create something out of hopes for a healthier mindset, and talking to an actual person about your anxieties is an incredible step forward in your journey towards a healthier mind. Confronting the issue and dealing with all of the emotions that come with mental illness is the most difficult thing to recognize, and by making it a point to attend a session you are putting your mental health first and responding to what your mind, body, and spirit truly needs. It’s a reason to feel proud, mindful, and hopeful that the pain and suffering you’ve been enduring can be relieved session after session.

It often feels like mental illness will consume you until you have nothing left. Trust me, I felt that too at one point on my journey, but it is possible to lessen that feeling if you put time and effort into something like art therapy. It’s fun, it doesn’t feel like a chore, and you will slowly begin to realize that constant suffering can be made temporary. I know it’s hard to confront your pain and look for the help you need, but I’m asking you this Mental Health Awareness Month to invest in your mental health and take a step forward towards an overall better quality of life.