Art Therapy According to the Art Therapy Journal, by the mid 20th century “many hospitals and mental health facilities began including art therapy programs after observing how this form of therapy could promote emotional, developmental, and cognitive growth in children” (“The History”). Art Therapy includes art and therapeutic techniques and helps people of all ages. Many people might benefit from art therapy because they might “find it scary or difficult to express themselves in a clinical setting” (How Art).
Art therapy is “the prescriptive use of art materials and art directives to facilitate positive changes in a person’s thoughts or feelings and behaviors” (Van Meter). The purpose of art therapy is to “improve or maintain mental health and emotional well-being” (“Art Therapy”). Art therapists are people who facilitate the therapy sessions.
According to Alison Peebles, art therapists are trained in both art and psychological therapy allowing them to work with a client to “facilitate self-expression and enhance communication” (Peeble). They are master level professionals who are trained in the use of art and media. Art therapists can work in a bunch of places.
“The list of locations, provided by the Art Therapy Alliance, are mental health agencies, school districts, community programs, residential treatment programs, shelters, hospitals, correctional facilities, hospices, wellness centers and private practices.” (“About Art Therapy”). Art Therapy lets people show how they feel through art. Art Therapy is not for everyone. Art Therapy uses both artistic and therapeutic techniques to give clients a way to express themselves. Art therapy is used in many places and provides benefits for those who participate.
Art therapy allows a person to find themselves. In England, Adrian Hill was the first person to refer to therapeutic applications of art; At the time Hill was being treated for tuberculosis. In 1940 Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer introduced art therapy. Psychologist, Margaret Naumburg’s work was always based on the idea” of using art to release the unconscious by encouraging free association” (“The History”).
Naumburg would try to encourage her clients to interpret and analyze their work. Austrian woman, Doctor Edith Kramer founded the Art Therapy Graduate Program at New York University; She was also the Adjunct Professor at New York University from 1975 to 2005. Before starting the session with a patient, the therapist should make sure that there are materials and space available. Space should be a quiet and comfortable environment setup with age-appropriate materials. The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine’s list of materials includes paper, paints, canvas, charcoals, markers, fabrics, wood, wire, bendable metals and a variety of other items. Tools such as brushes, easels, smocks, and cleaning materials may also be used (Ford-Martin). According to Paula Ford-Martin, providing artists with a variety of materials can enhance their interest in the therapy process.
To start the creative process, the therapist will give the patient a prompt. For those who have trouble seeing themselves as an “artist”, the patient should have an adequate amount of time to get acquainted with the process. As the artist gets more comfortable with the creative process, their creations will be filled with more emotion. Patients with brain injuries may have difficulty showing emotion but might still benefit from the sensory stimulation that the therapy provides (Ford-Martin). After the project has been completed, the therapist will begin to question the child “about various aspects of the artwork in an effort to understand what the thoughts or feelings it represents (“How Art”). Art therapy is used in various locations where individuals may have trouble expressing their emotions such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.
According to the American Cancer Society, “art therapy has been used with bone marrow transplant patients, people with eating disorders, emotionally impaired young people, disabled people, the chronically ill, chemically addicted individuals, sexually abused adolescents, caregivers of cancer patients, and others” (“Art Therapy”). The American Cancer Society also says that “art therapy may also be used to engage and distract patients whose illnesses or treatments cause pain (“Art Therapy”). They also that art therapy can help people with emotional support, self- awareness, and unconscious concerns about their illness and lives. Carol Johnson and Eileen Sullivan-Marx say that “the multisensory experience of art making unleashes a creative process that can energize, stimulate memory, free emotions, and increase activity level” (Johnson). In schools when a child is emotionally blocked and they distance themselves from emotional issues, they should see an art therapist (Van Meter). Art therapy can help express hidden emotions and provide a sense of freedom (“Art Therapy”). Not only does art therapy help with self- expression but it also helps people to manage emotional and physical issues by using art-inspired activities to express emotions (“Art Therapy”).
Art therapy is used in various locations where individuals may have trouble expressing their emotions. Art therapy has many benefits because it uses the creative process to create artwork to explore the client’s feelings. The American Cancer Society says that “many art therapists also believe the act of creation influences brain wave patterns and the chemicals released by the brain” (“Art Therapy”). Art therapy can offer direct relief from unexpressed or overwhelming feelings (Peebles).
When asked about art making, Carol Johnson said that it can “help the individual and the staff or family recognize his or her available strengths and resources that many times could not have been uncovered any other way (Johnson). A study of 300 senior citizens reported that individuals who took part in art therapy made fewer doctors visits and used less medication. This group of senior citizens also feel less and was less likely to be depressed. Many of these patients stated that participating in the exercises gave them more energy.
Another study, which involved 55 patients undergoing treatment for cancer, reported a reduction in pain, tiredness, anxiety, and fatigue after undergoing an art therapy session. Art therapy also provides a safe place for clients to tell their own stories and accept past experiences. Art creations may help people understand the meaning of their own lives.
The art itself may also help clients to talk about their problems. By creating art around a story or event in a person’s life, they may be able to open up more and let out their unexpressed emotions (Johnson). An art therapy program would be good for kids to move through life’s hurdles and develop control skills that lead to a stronger future (“Implement”).
Carol Johnson also says that “art therapy makes it possible for the staff and the family to see the client through the lens of their own life story and gain a glimpse into the core person, to see beyond their limitations to the strengths and beauty” (Johnson, Carol). By providing a safe and supportive environment for a positive experience, art therapy can help to ease the transition, depression, and fear (“Implement”). Art therapy’s positive impact in regards to social interaction, health, stress reduction, anxiety, and most of life’s challenges has been proved by research and studies (“Implement”). The bridge that art therapy creates between thoughts and feelings with communication helps clients learn new things.
There new findings through art making “builds confidence that one can successfully learn and adjust to new roles required by present circumstances (Johnson). Art therapy does not have to be done alone. Art therapy sessions can be done in small groups as well as individually.
Carol Johnson says that “working together on group projects, such as murals, can link people together, and give a sense of ownership and belonging (Johnson). Friendships can be made through art therapy sessions because you feel as if you are a part of something. Group sessions can bring people together who may be going through the same problems or issues. Recovery can sometimes be made easier if a patient knows that they are not going through the process alone.Art therapy, along with any program, also has challenges. An art therapist should get to know a client before proceeding with the creative process so they can tailor the session to fit the needs of the client. A task that does not have enough structure to fit the client’s needs may result in frustration and regression as well as agitation on the clients part (Johnson).
Tasks or projects in art therapy need to take advantage of the client’s strengths to allow success. While some clients may need to be given one step, other may need to be given multiple steps to complete and carry on through the creative process. Some clients who have choices on what they use for materials can be encouraged but for other clients, having choices can hinder the creative process and may lead to them feeling overwhelmed. “A client who feels like she is losing control may grow anxious if given clay but may do well successfully managing her anxiety when using a pencil and stencils” (Johnson). The importance of knowing what materials to give a client is a huge role in an art therapy session.
When a client has problems with communicating, they may become frustrated when asked to verbally explain their artwork or feelings. Sometimes it is better to ease the client into the questioning process of the session by asking simple questions about the art they have created. If a therapist rushes a client into the questioning process they may feel overwhelmed.