Sometimes people cannot express the way they feel, as it can be difficult to put into words, and art can help people express their experiences. The purpose of art therapy is essentially one of healing. Art therapy can be successfully applied to clients with physical, mental or emotional problems, diseases and disorders.
Any type of visual art and art medium can be employe within the therapeutic process, including painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, and digital art. It is increasingly recognize as a valid form of therapy. Art therapy can be use to help people improve cognitive and sensory motor function, self-esteem, self awareness, emotional resilience. It may also aide in resolving conflicts and reduce distress.
This psychoanalytic approach was one of the earliest forms of art psychotherapy. This approach employs the transference process between the therapist and the client who makes art. The therapist interprets the client’s symbolic self-expression as communicated in the art and elicits interpretations from the client. Using their evaluative and psychotherapy skills, art therapists choose materials and interventions appropriate to their clients’ needs and design sessions to achieve therapeutic goals and objectives. They use the creative process to help their clients increase insight, cope with stress, work through traumatic experiences, increase cognitive, memory and neurosensory abilities, improve interpersonal relationships and achieve greater self-fulfillment.
Art and the creative process can alleviate many illnesses (cancer, heart disease, influenza, etc.). This form of therapy helps benefit those who suffer from mental illnesses as well (chronic depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, etc.). Furthermore people can escape the emotional effects of illness through art making and many creative methods. “During art therapy, people can explore past, present and future experiences using art as a form of coping”. Art in another words can be a refuge for the intense emotions associate with illness. There are no limits to the imagination in finding creative ways to express emotions.
In a study involving women facing cancer-related difficulties such as fear, pain, altered social relationships, etc. It was observe that engaging in different types of visual art (textiles, card making, collage, pottery, watercolor, acrylics) helped these women in 4 major ways:
- Firstly it helped them focus on positive life experiences, relieving their ongoing preoccupation with cancer.
- Secondly it enhanced their self-worth and identity by providing them with opportunities to demonstrate continuity, challenge, and achievement.
- Thirdly it enable them to maintain a social identity that resist being defined by cancer.
- Fourthly it allowed them to express their feelings in a symbolic manner, especially during chemotherapy.
Because traumatic memories are encode visually, creating art may be the most effective way to access them. Through art therapy, children may be able to make more sense of their traumatic experiences and form accurate trauma narratives. Gradual exposure to these narratives may reduce trauma-induced symptoms, such as flashbacks and nightmares.
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