The Healing Power Of Art Therapy

The Transformative Power of Art Therapy in Nurturing Wellness

Art is a medium of expression and art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps us to express our feelings, emotions and experiences that we cannot normally express. The fine arts are creative outlets,  fostering healing and aiding in coping with changes that occur in our lives. We all have some inherent talent in us. It just takes some introspection, time and circumstances for us to recognize it.

The healing arts encompass a diverse array of talents, from artists and painters to dancers, singers, poets, writers, actors, content creators, and photographers. Art therapy is a healing therapy that gets all the suppressed emotions out of our system and makes us calmer and more focused to face the issues troubling us.

Quoting the main functions of the American Art Therapy Association, 2018 – “Improving cognitive and sensorimotor functions, fostering self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivating emotional resilience, promoting insight, enhancing social skills, reducing and resolving conflicts and distress and promoting societal and ecological changes.”

Origins Of Art Therapy

The term ‘Art Therapy’ was coined by Adrian Hill in 1942. Initially, he was lesser known but gradually his ideas spread far and wide with more people joining him.

Art was introduced as a therapeutic modality, between 1941 and 1947, by Margaret Naumberg, who worked at NY State Psychiatric Institution. Her case studies were published where she used art for diagnosis and therapy for the patients in the Institution. Her main contribution was called Dynamically Oriented Art Therapy which was based on the Freudian theory, which promotes “the release of spontaneous imagery from the client through the symbols drawn and free association of the artworks.” 

That means the artwork created by the patients was studied and an insight into their emotional state of mind was obtained, which assisted in their treatment. Her famous quote “Art therapy is a process of creating and reflecting on art that can help us understand ourselves and others on a deeper level”. 

Benefits Of Art Therapy

There are various benefits associated with Art Therapy.

  1. Stress buster: It may reduce stress and anxiety thereby inducing a sense of calmness.
  2. Depression fighter: It is known to alleviate the symptoms of depression.
  3. Self–esteem: It may build up self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth.
  4. Pain manager: It may reduce symptoms of pain in chronic diseases.
  5. Improvement in Autistic behavior: It may improve the behavior of autistic children, making it easier for them to express themselves.
  6. Trauma manager: It improves the management of trauma (PTSD – Port traumatic stress disorder).
  1. Happiness: It gives rise to a sense of happiness and joy.
  2. Calm mind: It calms the mind and you can focus better and find the solution to your problems.
  3. Positivity: It increases positivity thereby altering our outlook towards life and relationships for the better.
  4. Inter-personal relationships: It improves interpersonal relationships among family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances.
  5. Support: It helps in supporting and assisting others, as we understand them better.
  6. Memory: It helps to improve memory and reasoning powers in older people undergoing treatment for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Healing Through Art Therapy

Imagine this: A child has just lost his father and has distanced himself from his family. He is in grief but unable to comprehend the situation. He talks less and is gloomy. The only thing that he is interested in, is his drawing book. He spends a lot of time drawing. Experts say that this act of drawing is a way for him to express his grief/emotions and will help him to accept the fact that his father is no more. It’s an outlet for healing him.

Over a while, it was observed that with love and care from his family, he was able to come to terms with his grief and soon became the naughty, chirpy self that he normally is. Thus art healed him!! This form also includes sculpting, ceramics and clay moulding.

Music: The Healing Tune

There was another instance, during the lockdown, that is worth mentioning. I was sitting at the window when I heard the gentle strums of a guitar. Someone from across the street was playing the guitar. How I heard it this far was because there was absolutely no traffic on the roads and none of the daily sounds like hawkers, people talking, car horns, civil construction work sounds, nothing at all! The melody was so soothing and calming. Turns out, it was an elderly uncle who was strumming the guitar.

He was once a member of a music band but had to give up playing music owing to family responsibilities. He had recently retired and his grandson convinced him to take up playing the guitar once again. He would sit in the balcony with his guitar and very soon the neighbours began requesting him to play their favorite songs, and he obliged. His happiness was boundless!! All of them felt comforted that they were not alone in this lockdown and that they had each other together to face the situation. 

It exemplifies how shared artistic experiences, like music, serve as a unique and uplifting form of art therapy during challenging times.

When In Doubt- Dance It Out

Dancing is another way of expressing your emotions and feelings. Be it love, happiness, sadness, stress, loneliness, anger or whatever emotion you may be experiencing, the second you begin dancing, it all vanishes. Dance releases the feel-good hormones “endorphins” and relaxes you doing away with all your worries and stress. Dance with gay abandon and free yourself from all the feelings bottled up inside you. Let it all emerge!

Writing Your Troubles Away

Writing is a powerful medium and an excellent way to express ourselves. Whatever lemons life throws our way, we are quick to squeeze them into our writing. Whether through poetry, books, essays, or personal thoughts in journals, the writing process allows words to take form. Once in the flow, our fingers effortlessly glide over the keyboard or page, transforming troubles into a narrative of freedom. Writing becomes the conduit for expression, enabling us to navigate, understand, and transcend the difficulties we face.

Singing The Fearless Song

Singing is another effective tool that expresses each and every feeling aptly, as there are songs for every mood, occasion and emotion. So, just sing and sing out loud. Sing till you are exhausted, but somehow feeling better than before

Acting Out Feelings

Drama and acting are yet another powerful tool. At times the therapist asks the patient to act out a particular situation thereby gauging the mental condition of the patient and enabling the line of treatment.   

Content Creators

Presently there is this craze of content creators across social media platforms. The content creators create content like memes, and videos, for the viewers which is largely appreciated. Whatever the occasion, there is a meme or some other content available on social media platforms. Some make us laugh and forget our problems momentarily, while some make us ponder about life. Some give us solutions to our problems while some inspire us. We begin to express our feelings while reacting to such content.

Picture This

Photographers have the ability to capture moments and immortalize them. How many of you sit down with your photo albums, reminisce and relive those memories? These instances make us happy and we imagine ourselves as we are in those albums. For a while, we become the goofy-looking, rabbit-toothed person in the photograph – ourselves when we were children. After a while when we put away those albums, we are smiling. 

Conclusion

Many events occur in our lives but at times we are unable to express ourselves aptly. Art therapy comes to our rescue in such instances. Our fears are diminished and we become more confident. Our thinking becomes rational and we can find our way out of any sticky situation. Proper treatments can be made for patients undergoing therapy sessions. Our mental strength is gradually built up and we become calmer and more focused. All in all, it is a win-win situation for us. We love our artwork thereby we improve our mental,  physical and emotional wellness. What a deal!

Doctors say that it is not good to bottle up our feelings as they have long-term illnesses beckoning them. Whatever you feel, express it. If you can’t say it, draw it. If you can’t draw, sing it. If you can’t sing, dance it. If you can’t dance, write it. If you can’t write, act it. Just do it! Any way that you can. Do not live your life with so much luggage in your mind and heart. Pent-up emotions give rise to dissatisfaction, fear, loneliness, depression, stress, anxiety, loss of self-confidence, grief, sadness, envy, jealousy, and many negative thoughts and feelings.

This is the time to emerge victorious and preserve our mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellness. There is no use in spending hours in the gym or eating healthy, if your mind is running at top speed in the wrong direction. It’s no use exercising and having six-pack abs if you are scared to open your mouth and talk. It’s no use meditating and being mindful if you harbor grudges or envy. It’s no use having a good body if you don’t have a sound mind. Mental and emotional wellness is linked to our physical wellness as well. All three need to work together with our spiritual side and voila! we have a complete package, good to go! To conclude “Art heals”.   

Rupal Sonpal

Ms. Rupal Sonpal

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