What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy which uses art materials as an alternative way to communicate thoughts and feelings. The use of art materials enables self-exploration and the expression of emotions in a non-verbal way. This non-verbal approach is particularly helpful for people who feel uncomfortable with more traditional ‘talking’ therapies.
Who would benefit from Art Therapy?
Art therapists are flexible in the way they work and so can support a wide variety of individuals and groups in different environments. For example:
• Those in social or health care settings living with physical and/or mental health conditions.
• Young people struggling with social, emotional or behavioural difficulties at school or in other educational establishments.
• Those in community support programmes such as refugees, the homeless, older adults, and other groups
• Individuals seeking a creative alternative to traditional talking therapy
What are the advantages of Art Therapy?
Art therapy can encourage:
• The expression of thoughts and feelings that may be difficult to talk about.
• The exploration of imagination and creativity.
• The development of healthy coping skills for a variety of conditions such as depression and anxiety.
• Improved communication skills and self esteem.
Art Therapy in Action
Art Therapy client and war veteran, Richard Kidgell shares his experience:
“I was offered Art Therapy whilst at ‘Combat Stress’ to treat PTSD. The results were dramatic. The symbolism and direct access to my subconscious broke through years of rigid self-discipline and released suppressed emotions and memories, so that they could be dealt with at last. Without Art Therapy and ‘Combat Stress’, I do not think that I would be alive today.”
An Art Therapy Group, (pupils aged 10-12) at Jack Tizard School:
These plasticine models were made by pupils at a school in West London, who have a range of severe learning difficulties. Art Therapy is offered weekly as part of a life-enhancing education program at the school. It creates a playful atmosphere and increases interaction and communication, encouraging inventiveness, self-awareness and achievement.
A personal experience of one-to-one art therapy as a private client, by Jane Beinart:
“For me art therapy has worked on such a deeper level than any other form of therapy and it’s hard to describe why in words… It’s like there is another presence in the room, which helps you express how you feel.
You can do things with your hands rather than just talking, you can see more clearly and you can make a mess.
I wouldn’t say it was easy – not at all, it was very hard work… but ultimately overall it was a fantastic experience and I would recommend it as a form of therapy to anyone who is considering having therapy or counselling.”
Dr Richard Corrigall, consultant psychiatrist speaks about Art Psychotherapy at the Snowsfield Adolescent Mental Health unit
“Art psychotherapy is a big asset for my team. It is a valuable addition to the more conventional forms of assessment and therapy and helps to promote a culture of trust and respect.”
“I greatly enjoy participating in the art psychotherapy group every week. Having different ways to communicate with others is just as important for clinicians as it is for service users.”
“The use of art psychotherapy acts as a complement rather than a contradiction to the medical understanding of mental illness and having a richer understanding of the experience of the people you are employed to care for greatly adds to motivation and job satisfaction.”
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