What is Art Therapy?

What is Art Therapy?

As a matter of fact, Dr. Seuss is coaching his readers to get in touch with their emotions with a book entitled “My Many Colored Days.” In this book the good doctor explains the general correlation between our favorite colors and the emotions they spawn.

What is Art Therapy?”

Do you recall, years ago when the walls in hospitals, institutions, and the like were covered in shades of white, beige, or grey? Now, we are met with an array of complementary colors. Let’s take a moment to reflect on how these colors make us feel?  The following statement may come as a surprise to you:  We all have been treated to a form of art therapy.

Art therapy is defined as an established mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people resolve conflicts and issues, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.

It also integrates the fields of human development, visual art, and the creative process with models of counseling and psychotherapy. This modality is used with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, groups and families to assess and treat the following conditions: anxiety, depression, emotional problems and disorders, mental illness, substance abuse, relationship issues, social and emotional difficulties related to illness and disability, trauma, loss, neurological problems, and psycho-social difficulties related to mental illness.

Art therapy programs are found in a number of settings including hospitals, clinics, public and community agencies, wellness centers, educational institutions, and private practices. This modality can also be integrated into existing programs whereby the therapists can co-treat groups and individuals to maximize their potential.

EMBODIED IN ART THERAPY IS THE PSYCHOLOGY OF COLOR.

Color therapy or “chromotherapy” was practiced by ancient cultures including Egyptian and Chinese. They used color to heal and today in holistic or alternative settings, practitioners include it as well. Here are some interesting characteristics:

RED– Used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation (and appetite)

YELLOW– Used to stimulate the nervous system and help focus

ORANGE– Used to heal the lungs and promote energy

BLUE– Used to calm and sooth and treat pain.

How can some of this information be used in working with children? Visual stimulation is key when presenting art materials. With a very hyper child, it is important to avoid offering stimulating colors such as reds or oranges and try to stick with the blue tones. 

Getting back to Dr. Seuss, the story is wonderfully illustrated with colorful images that connect to a feeling ……this, of course is rather subjective. Children then respond to the question, “Does the color in the book make you feel different?” Either way, the story provides a gateway for children to identify their own emotions, which is often difficult for children with developmental issues. After exploring the book the children are presented with examples of possible art projects inspiring the creation of murals, portraits and more…

LET’S TALK ABOUT ART THERAPY FOR ADOLESCENTS WITH AUTISM

Data compiled from more than 11,000 middle and high school-age students in special education revealed that teens with autism, who struggle with conversational and social skills are significantly less likely than their peers to spend time with friends or report having a social life.

A therapeutic program should offer a safe and enjoyable sensory experience that helps create a calm and regulated state for the adolescent; this in turn often helps them open up and express their feelings.

Using a variety of materials and approaches, the goal of the Art Therapist is to engage, inspire, and help adolescents develop their social skills with peers, communicate more effectively, and ultimately experience the joy of creative expression.

  1. Photo Therapy: The use of photos such as personal snapshots, family albums, and pictures taken by self or others as a means to access personal awareness and enhance communication during art therapy sessions.  Scrapbook or journaling projects can be developed with the use of photos and other creative materials.
  • Fabric and Textile Arts: This artisan-style approach utilizes a variety of projects that may become more long-term; taking several weeks to complete. Such projects may include: quilting, pillow making, weaving, needle crafts, and other fabric based art. Some instructional sessions may be required for participants to learn sewing or other crafting techniques. Modifications and adaptations can be incorporated for those who need assistance

A parent after completing a session with her child had this to say:

“I feel empowered, now that I have been instructed on how to encourage my son to express artistically.  I witnessed Darren transform as he connected with colors and materials to create multiple masterpieces. Our hearts filled with pride, as we gazed at his creations decorating the kitchen counter.  More importantly, I can’t tell you how moved I was to have spent this quality time with my son.”

IN CONCLUSION, LET’S CONSIDER HOW WE MAY INTEGRATE FORMS OF “ART THERAPY” TO  BALANCE  OUR LIVES.  TAKE ME FOR EXAMPLE.  AFTER 22 YEARS AS A CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT, MY MOTHER PASSED AWAY.  IN RETROSPECT, MY HEALING PROCESS INVOLVED CREATING HAND PAINTED PRAYER BOXES FOR ALL OCCASIONS. IT WAS NOT LONG BEFORE I BEGAN FILLING ORDERS, THAT CORRELATED WITH MY HEALING JOURNEY.   IN ANOTHER INSTANCE, AFTER MY FRIEND DIVORCED HER HUSBAND, SHE BEGAN ACCEPTING COMMISSIONS TO CUSTOM DESIGN MASKS, THE FOUNDATION FOR WHICH ARE STYROFOAM HEADS ORDINARILY USED TO STORE AND STYLE WIGS. FINALLY, TAKE THE LATE GIL NOBLE, A PROFESSIONAL JOURNALIST, WHO FOUND PAINTING AND PIANO PLAYING, TO BE HIS FORMS OF RELAXATION.  WE CAN ALL BENEFIT FROM ART THERAPY.   

YOUR MAY CONSIDER WEARING YOUR FAVORITE COLOR TO BED TONIGHT WITH THE INTENTION OF HAVING IT NOURISH YOU, WHILE YOU SLEEP.

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