Traditional talk therapy can be very beneficial for a lot of people. Talking with a licensed professional helps people come to realizations and they can make major breakthroughs. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy for everyone to verbally communicate feelings. In fact, a lot of people struggle to say how they feel when sitting across from a therapist. It’s also possible that the feelings or traumatic experience you want to talk about are buried deep down, and talking about it can seem impossible.
In all these cases, and many more, art therapy can serve as an alternative therapeutic way to process emotions. Art is a healing medium and it can be quite liberating and therapeutic, even outside an art therapy session. Scribbling, painting, or sculpting can help people release stress or tense emotions.
What Is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a practice that uses art as a tool to promote healing. An art therapy session gives you the chance to express their feelings and experiences in a physical way. Expressing an emotion through artistic qualities can be a lot easier than describing it verbally. Language processing, emotional processing, and creative thinking all involve different areas of the brain. What art therapy aims to do is integrate these areas to help bridge the gaps between these processes. Many art therapists agree that this process leads to a more holistic and intuitive outcome.
It is far different from taking an art class because an art class focuses on technique. In an art therapy session, the therapist asks minimal questions while the client creates art in their presence. The therapist uses the time to observe the creation of the client’s art and what their body language is while making the art. The colors, intensity of the piece, and more all communicate things to the therapist, all without a lot of verbal communication. Continue reading to learn about some potential benefits of art therapy.
It May Build Self-Esteem
Authors of a 2019 report noted that participating in expressive art activities may help build self-acceptance, confidence, and self-esteem. These types of interventions may help people with chronic illness, as it helps them process complex or difficult thoughts/emotions about their experiences and/or conditions. Other research notes that art therapy focuses on promoting self-expression to gain a sense of personal independence and self-sufficiency. Art can help you understand what matters to you!
It May Reduce Stress
The act of creating something can be very therapeutic and it can help you release built-up tension in the body. One systematic review, which included 37 studies, found that 81% of participants in the reviewed studies reported significant reductions in stress via creative art interventions. A smaller study found that 45 minutes of art-making (collaging, using modeling clay, or drawing) helped reduce cortisol levels in 75% of participants. Participants also noted that the art session made them want to make more art.
It May Improve Behavior In Autistic Children
According to several studies, art therapy may be an effective form of healing that can aid children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A 2022 review included 15 studies that monitored children with autism between ages three and 16. The review concluded that art intervention, like drawing and painting, helped them express themselves and improve social learning. Additionally, a small study followed 40 children (ages six to 12) with ASD in Iran. After 12 sessions of art therapy, children showed more adaptive behaviors and emotions, improved social interactions, and an increased ability to share their feelings.
It May Improve Symptoms Of Anxiety And Depression
One of the best ways to work through your depression or anxiety is to create art. You just let your emotions flow through you without ever needing to say a word. A small randomized controlled trial monitored elderly women with major depressive disorder. The group that participated in 20 weekly art therapy group sessions reported improvements in their depression and anxiety symptoms. Experts purport that making art helps participants cope with stressful events and express themselves in accessible ways. A systematic review of 413 studies concluded that art therapy was effective for helping patients with mental health disorders open up and share their feelings.
It May Help People With PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that develops in some people who experienced scary, shocking, or dangerous events. One small study consisted of 11 combat veterans with PTSD. Findings indicated that art therapy, in conjunction with cognitive processing therapy (CPT), enhanced trauma recall and increased access to emotions. Additionally, researchers from this trial noted non-verbal therapeutic tools, such as art therapy, potentially allowed for deeper emotional processing. The veterans who participated in art therapy were either able to recover blocked memories or gain crucial realizations that helped them move forward.