Art Therapy deals with the same issues as conventional talk therapy but the two disciplines of art and psychology are combined. All aspects of the visual arts, creativity, human development, behavior, personality and mental health are important to the scope of art therapy. Art therapy is a modality that uses the nonverbal language of art for personal growth, insight, and transformation and is a means of connecting thoughts, feelings, and perceptions with life experiences.
Art therapy explores the symbolism that is revealed through line, shape and colour. Art expression often contains the form of human, or animal body, nature elements, real or invented, and abstractions and may be parts of self and states and expressions of emotions. An example of use of line shape and color that led to exploration of emotions reminds me of a young boy I worked with several years ago and could not seem to help him because he would not talk. I had him draw a spontaneous scribble drawing with me as I demonstrated using colored paper and colored chalk. He finished rather quickly and said it’s a face and the face is angry. Wow he said, its me. Then the work began. Integration and awareness of these inner parts and states occurs in therapy.
The art expression becomes a form of communication for the client and the therapist. A short course of art therapy often results in a shift or change that may move to greater depth or a faster process. I have utilized a directive with a client such as “Draw your anxiety!” The rich information at times can be used for many sessions to explore situations from that original piece that relate to the anxiety. Again and again the drawings are explored individually and together for more insight from the client of their inner world and the experiences, thoughts and feelings that lead to anxiety. Art therapy has expanded and is a recognized therapy for treatment in health, medicine, and schools.
Who can benefit from Art Therapy?“Art Therapy is effective for people of any age. An art therapist works with individuals, couples, families, or groups in settings such as counselling agencies, schools, treatment centers, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, correctional institutes, and elder care locations.” I spent several years working with children using art therapy. Children are often quite open to exploring their art in unique ways. One example is finding an animal in a child’s drawing and playing a game of pretend to explore feelings and thoughts and how they might relate to their experiences. Asking questions like, What do you think the puppy is thinking, feeling, doing?, Have you ever felt like this puppy? What happened that made you feel that way? This can lead to a very meaningful session very quickly. Currently I use art therapy as part of a treatment program with clients who are recovering from addictions. I find the people using art learn to relax, are often surprized at their creativity and what surfaces in their art, and enjoy this part of their treatment. The media we use is varied and simple.
Canadian Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “ Art Therapy combines the creative process and psychotherapy, facilitating self-exploration and understanding. Using imagery, colour, and shape as part of this creative therapeutic process, thoughts and feelings may be expressed that would otherwise be difficult to articulate.”
Irene Haire, MC, CRAT Registered Provisional Psychologist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building 200-9562- 82 Avenue 780-232-1055 www.cloverdalecounselling.com