A Writer’s Journey in Art Therapy

Before I begin this blog I wanted to emphasize that I write real events about the real world and real people, generally myself.   I want to take you on a journey to a place I recently explored.

My hope is that you, the reader, will continue to read my blogs and find inspiration in your own lives and maybe try new things.  Much of what I write is about wellness of body and mind,alon with maintaining balance in our lives.  May you always be blessed with treasures on your life path.

    As a writer recently dealing with losses in my life I wanted to explore something other than the traditional psychotherapy route.  I was reviewing other options when I came across an art therapy class in Edmonton which is near where I live.

To get a brief understanding about what art therapy is about, I researched some sites on-line and these were some of my findings: :

What is Art Therapy?’ brochure from the website of (BAAT– British Association of Art Therapists),

“Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of communication. It is practised by qualified, registered Art Therapists who work with children, young people, adults and the elderly. ( 1)

Clients who can use art therapy may have a wide range of difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses. These include, for example, emotional, behavioral or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, life-limiting conditions, brain-injury or neurological conditions and physical illness. Art therapy may be provided for groups, or for individuals, depending on clients’ needs. It is not a recreational activity or an art lesson, although the sessions can be enjoyable. Clients do not need to have any previous experience or expertise in art.”

    People always search for some escape from illness and it has been found that art is one of the more common methods. Art and the creative process can aid many illnesses (cancer, heart disease, influenza, etc.). People can escape the emotional effects of illness through art making and many creative methods. (2)

Art therapy can help improve various mental and physical symptoms including, but  not limited to, reducing pain, anxiety, and tension. It can be beneficial to  those who have mental disorders, severe or light emotional abuse, cancer, post  traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), people who are bipolar, and a variety of  other serious ailments. (3)

  As a Fibromyalgia sufferer I know that stress can make the fatigue and chronic pain unbearable for many and more of us are also being diagnosed with IBS or Endometriosis as well.

   Art therapists have conducted studies to understand why some cancer patients turned to art making as a coping mechanism and a tool to creating a positive identity outside of being a cancer patient. Women in the study participated in different art programs ranging from pottery and card making to drawing and painting. The programs helped them regain an identity outside of having cancer, lessened emotional pain of their on-going fight with cancer, and also giving them hope for the future.

Studies have also shown how the emotional distress of cancer patients has been reduced when utilizing the creative process. The women made drawings of themselves throughout the treatment process while also doing yoga and meditating; these actions combined helped to alleviate some symptoms. (2)

  The creative process and artwork are considered in terms of their therapeutic benefit to the client rather than their artistic merit per se. Working in a collaborative manner, the art therapist serves as a guide and facilitator helping the artist-client to express their individual style of creativity and then “translate” their art into meaningful avenues of exploration and personal insight.

My session began with the closing of my eyes and deep breathing exercises that I was instructed to follow and continued to do so until I began to paint.  After an hour and a half I felt I painted what I needed to and stopped. 

  My therapist asked me what the significance parts of my painting meant to me and we explored several areas in my life.  The release of emotions and some old and new hurts materialized yet I was almost cleansed in a way.  Many areas of my artwork indicated a strong sense of self, confidence and a free spirit.  I was advised to look at it in the privacy of my own home for a few days and see if I saw something new to review.  My use of vibrant colour indicated a high level of happiness in my life. I was surprised at many of the things I painted and with a variety of brushes and techniques.  I was present but I was in the “zone’ that writers, musicians and other creative types enter where time did not exist.

  Art therapy has been recognized for its contributions in clinical environments such as mental health facilities and hospitals, the practice of art therapy extends well beyond the boundaries of health services to include work in corporate, educational, social, cross-cultural and community settings. 

References:

1.  http://baat.org/What_is_Art_Therapy.pdf, p.1

2. Stuckley, Heather L, and Jeremy Nobel. “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature.” American Journal of Public Health (Feb2010): 254-263. Web. 9 Nov 2010.

3. http://www.arttherapyblog.com/art-therapy-benefits/#ixzz2AZst86JV

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3 thoughts on “A Writer’s Journey in Art Therapy

  1. Judy says:

    Interesting and informative, thanks!

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