Talk therapy is a useful outlet, but sometimes it can feel confrontational and be difficult to find the “right” words to describe your experience. What if words don’t do your experience justice? What happens when there are no words?
Art therapy offers an opportunity to safely explore emotions even when emotions are devastating, impulsive, or messy. Art can provide a structure that can help bring order to chaos. Art therapy has many benefits through the exploration of materials, pictorial communication, and body awareness.
Using art in therapy can cut to the heart of an issue more quickly than verbal psychotherapy, in some cases. Images can bypass language-based defenses to reveal inner truths. Clients are less likely to verbally censor, ague, or confuse themselves and are more likely to be open to sharing. When clients are filled with shame, it can prohibit them from talking freely because they could be defensively guarding their secrets. The use of art helps fill periods of silence with productive activity. They can participate in therapy without having to reveal themselves verbally earlier than they are comfortable with. Using images and metaphors can provide a new language for describing symptoms and bring the experience into the room allowing us to be witnesses and the chance to live a moment with the client.
When using art therapy, there is knowledge to be gained from observing the person creating the art, by witnessing the process of producing art, and from viewing the art product itself. All are equally valuable sources of therapeutic information. As part of the process, your art therapist co-creates with you. They will not ask you to do something that they are not willing to do themselves.
What is Art Therapy?
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”
How does Art Therapy work?
Memories are not made up of verbal dialogue. They are processed and represented as sensory experiences and visual images. Through visualization as well as direct art making, the ability of art therapy to move images from implicit to explicit memory is a necessary part of the healing process. Art can also be a container for and liberator from the ambivalence that our clients feel about recovery. The ability to contain and explain two opposing feelings makes art uniquely communicative.
Exploring art materials can assist in teaching and reinforcing creative approaches to problem-solving. It can provide a sense of mastery which supports and builds self-esteem and self-empowerment. Art making is protective in nature in that the creative process involves kinesthetic engagement which is soothing and calming.
Art therapy supports the process of reengaging and reintegrating the body and self. Art therapy is a holistic experience that can provide the gift and challenge to be present in the body despite any feelings of physical or emotional distress. Art therapy challenges clients to experiment with materials that can be helpful in understanding and safely confronting rigid, dysfunctional belief systems. Some materials are foreign, unusual, or scary so it provides safe risk taking and to tolerate distress such as challenging perfectionism.
Please reach out to either of our Art Therapists for more information or with any specific questions about our process and what art therapy means to us!
If you are interested in getting your own supplies, please use this link and follow the below steps to access Mind Body Co-op’s Art Therapy Kit:
- select state – Illinois
- select school name – Mind Body Co-op
- select Art Therapy kit
- edit quantity of products as needed
- total cost of kit: ~$48