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The article deals with the use of art as a form of therapy for anxiety and other psycho-emotional problems. The roots of this form of psycho-therapy is also discussed together with the actual benefits of undergoing therapy through the creative process of artwork.
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We are all creative beings. Men’s creative minds made them reach the peak of the highest mountain in the world, plant a flag on the moon, fly into outer space. Our creativity brought about inventions that have changed human history and culture such as the computer, the Internet, cell phone, TV, x-ray machines, and a long list of other innovations. These are all the end result of man’s creativity.
Suffice it to say, creativity produces works of art, which in turn, plays a large role in our everyday lives. We can see them in almost every corner, every space or walls around us. Art has been used as a visual means of communication and expression dating back to prehistoric times. Art speaks of originality, individuality, a creative process, graphic materials, colors, textures, spontaneity, risk, alternatives, and imagination. But art is not only for the creative minds or the famous painters. It is also a healthy way to express the way we feel and deal with our emotions. Art has been of central importance to the healing practices of many cultures over much of human history. As time went on, art has been developed as a tool for psychological diagnosis and treatment called Art Therapy.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is a method that utilizes art media, images, and the creative art process to help a patient to address concerns and conflicts. Art Therapy is based on the knowledge of human development and psychological theories which are implemented in the full spectrum of models of assessment and treatment including educational, psycho-dynamic, cognitive, trans-personal, and other therapeutic means of reconciling emotional conflicts. It is also used as a tool for fostering self-awareness, developing social skills, managing behavior, solving problems, reducing anxiety, aiding in reality orientation, and in increasing self-esteem.
The beginnings of modern art therapy can be traced to the early 1900s when psychiatrists first wondered if there was a relationship between artworks and the illnesses of patients. At the same time, art educators began to observe how the free and spontaneous artworks of children were a form of personal storytelling which conveyed emotionally and symbolically meaningful messages. These two areas of interest that eventually resulted in the emergence of the distinct discipline of art therapy in the 1930s. During the second half of the twentieth century, art therapists became increasingly organized, setting up graduate programs, professional associations, and journals.
A variety of artistic methods are used in Art Therapy. These methods or professional areas include: music therapy, dance therapy, psychodrama, and movie therapy. Other methods include speech therapy, recreational therapy, photo-therapy, and poetry therapy.
Art therapy has actually developed into a human care service which expands the psychotherapeutic process to encompass the client’s visual and verbal expressions, and intellectual insights or reflections. Art therapy clients are able to deal with the same kinds of issues they would deal with in conventional talk therapies. They are not required to have any special artistic skills or abilities in order to benefit from art therapy. However, the clients engage in the therapy by creating with art materials in collaboration with the art therapist. The art therapist serves as a witness, guide, and facilitator — helping the artist-client to express their unique creativity and then “translate” their creative language into meaningful avenues of exploration and personal insights.
Drawing, painting, and sculpting help many people reconcile their inner conflicts, release deeply repressed emotions, and foster self-awareness, as well as personal growth. Some mental health providers use art therapy as a diagnostic tool and as a way to help treat disorders such as anxiety, abuse-related trauma, and schizophrenia. Art therapy sessions are also given to prison inmates and HIV patients.
Although there is relatively little scientific evidence to prove that that it helps people with cancer, many health professionals think it may encourage the cancer patients to express their emotions, which could help them improve their relationship with others. It can also take their minds and feelings away from pain and discomfort.
Art is found to be of great help most especially to a depressed individual. Through art, they can discover their anger and express it in a healthy way. In one study, art therapy was used with suicidal teenagers, and results showed that it had positive effects as part of an overall treatment plan. Teenagers with depression are often slowed down in their journey towards independence and to having a secure self-identity. Therefore, it is very helpful to provide a safe outlet for the distress that has triggered the depression. With the creative process of art therapy, negative factors that cause depression such as guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness are gradually addressed.
When used along with other interventions for the treatment of depression, art therapy can be an effective and creative way to aid an individual’s journey toward self-knowledge and emotional health. The idea is not to focus on producing a masterpiece. The important thing to remember is to concentrate on the act of creation itself. The images that are produced can help lead the individual to a new and different understanding of how they think and feel, and this knowledge may be the tool that helps them unlock their inner happiness.
Emotional disturbances such as depression, anxiety, and stress overload are the result of losing touch with one’s own thoughts and feelings. One way to get back in touch with these thoughts and feelings is through the use of art. Art therapy provides a sense of accomplishment, enjoyment, and personal expression for those interested in simple relaxation and self-discovery.