Art can really be better at communicating a narrative and unlocking underlying emotions than explanations of a person’s sentiments through words, especially at a younger age or when there is an emotional barrier. Linda Turner, an art therapist, and Peter Haughwout, an art educator, discuss how art therapy blends art and counseling via strong client-therapist interactions.
The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the concept that a visual aid may communicate more than what a person can explain with a large number of words. So, if that’s the case, it’s apparent that not everyone is capable of properly expressing oneself through words.
The term “art therapy” was coined by British artist Adrian Hill in the 1940s, and the American Art Therapy Association defines it as “the therapeutic use of art making with a professional relationship by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in life, and by people who seek personal development.”
Professionals emphasize the importance of the therapist-client interaction in the therapeutic process, which is why while coloring, drawing, or doing art recreationally might be beneficial, it is not therapy.
The act is therapeutic in and of itself since it takes us away from our everyday concerns. We may accidentally experience emotional expressiveness, self-awareness, and personal insight into issues while participating in the activity; nevertheless, these results are generally an unintended consequence of the action. We don’t know what to do with these results in many situations, despite the fact that we experience them.
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as below:
“Through integrative methods, art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone. Kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic opportunities invite alternative modes of receptive and expressive communication, which can circumvent the limitations of language. Visual and symbolic expression gives voice to experience and empowers individual, communal, and societal transformation.”
The AATA goes on to say that the art therapist’s role is to:
“Honoring individuals’ values and beliefs, art therapists work with people who are challenged with medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth.”
Making art is a universal activity that can be done for a variety of reasons, including novelty, exploration, relaxation, and creative expression. It may also be utilized as a type of psychotherapy in which the art activity is incorporated into the treatment process.
The act of creative expression while engaged in a calming activity is what drives the advantages of art as therapy.
An art activity done by an art instructor, volunteer, or assistant might appear to an outsider to be identical to an art activity done by an art therapist. Children, teenagers, and adults can benefit much from producing art in terms of creative involvement, relaxation, and pleasure. As a result, art creating is sometimes referred to as a ‘therapeutic’ activity.
The distinction between art therapy and art psychotherapy (or art therapy) is subtle, and it occurs first in the facilitator’s head.
Art therapy is a form of professional treatment with roots in psychoanalysis. Art therapists prioritize establishing a therapeutic relationship and trust with clients in order to engage them on a more emotional level.
Over time, the art therapist seeks ways to assist clients in identifying, expressing, and processing buried or blocked emotions. It is a type of symbolic language emerging from the unconscious that is crucial in assisting the individual with the integration of the psyche, according to Jungian theory. As a result, psychotherapists are acutely aware of concerns of confidentiality.
Participants may not feel as comfortable in a group setting as they do when relating one-on-one to an individual session. However, the size of the group, as well as the facilitator’s attitude and tone, have an influence on how people respond. Art therapists are aware of the need for organization and select activities that are appropriate for the group’s process and goal.
Whereas in an art session, the emphasis is typically on the art activity, in a group art therapy session, the focus is always on the individual’s emotional well-being, whether it’s to attain a sense of release or improved self-awareness, both of which are important for mental health.