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Key Benefits of Art Therapy

Key Benefits of Art Therapy

Drawing is a form of expression, prevalent since the stone ages. Then, it was used as a substitute for words, and today, it has been developed into a form of therapy for the exact, same reason - as a substitute for words, for those who are uncomfortable sharing their thoughts verbally. This article highlights the benefits of this soothing form of therapy.
Gauri Huddar
Art is basically an unhindered form of self expression which does not need to be taught to an individual. From the time a child learns to hold a pencil till the time he dies, he is capable of producing some or the other form of art. Obviously, not all of us can go on to become a Picasso, and art as a way of expressing oneself shouldn't be subjected to comparison or judgment. Living as we are in a world of cut throat competition, we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture and get caught up in the flow. Unless and until you have some positive way of releasing the emotions building up inside you, you may hit a dead end for creativity and motivation in life, and end up listless at a really young age. Art can be one way of overcoming this mental exhaustion.

Art Therapy

Art therapy explores the idea, that creative and untrained art can be a powerful healing mechanism. Victims who have undergone severely traumatic events and find it difficult to talk about them, can be healed with the help of this therapy. Art is a powerful tool of self expression and has therapeutic and calming qualities. Creating art and reflecting on the created art, can help a person cope with stress and trauma, and lead to an overall improvement in his personality and his quality of life. It's a great way of facing your weaknesses and fears in a positive way and overcoming them, and also a wonderful way of developing insight into the deeper recesses of your mind. It can help in resolving inner conflicts, building self esteem and improving behavior through therapy. Some famous artists like Vincent van Gogh and Frieda Kahlo used their art to get over depressing incidents in their lives.

Definition of Art Therapy: According to The American Art Therapy Association, "Art Therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life affirming pleasures of making art."

Benefits of Art Therapy

The benefits can be broadly divided into 4 main categories:

Emotional Benefits
Art therapy is extensively used to treat patients suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), people who have suffered emotional, mental or physical abuse at any point in their lives, depression, etc. It helps you participate actively in shedding your emotional baggage, instead of waiting for time to heal you. It helps you recognize and positively resolve the conflicts within yourself that you may not even have been aware of. For those who wish to grow emotionally, art therapy helps to gain insight into oneself, and come to terms with aspects of one's personality that one may or may not like to face. It helps children as well as adults.

Social Benefits
The main concern of socially challenged or painfully shy people is that they are afraid to go out in public, thinking they are the only ones suffering from an embarrassing condition. For such people, joining a group therapy session helps to remove this feeling of isolation. They can interact with other people with similar conditions, and get out of their self imposed social shells. Creating something of their own, without any help from anyone, helps in building their confidence which they can carry into a social setting. It also provides them a platform to express themselves, since they usually don't have any other creative outlets.

Cognitive Benefits
Art has proven to be a medium of communication between the two hemispheres of the brain which are usually independent. The right hemisphere controls memories, while the left hemisphere controls verbal abilities. So it may be difficult for a person to express his traumatic memories through words, in which case art comes to the rescue. The art produced by someone who has been through a trauma, illness or an accident that has left them with a disability, gives us a peek into the working of their brain and an idea about their point of view. This can go a long way in understanding and dealing with their mental blocks. Although imagery is not always 100% efficient, it is helpful in starting off in the right direction.

Physical Benefits
The main physical benefit of art therapy is reduction in stress and an overall rise in the general feeling of activeness. As discussed in social benefits, it helps extremely shy people get over their shyness and makes their body language more confident and positive, like subtle changes in the style of walking, posture, etc. It has also proven beneficial in reducing blood pressure and anxiety, and improving immunity. It is also used to reduce pain and treat depression without using the traditional counseling techniques.

Other than the benefits listed above, the pure pleasure at putting color on paper, mixing shades and creating something tangible from the fleeting images and thoughts inside your head, can give you an emotional high and alter your mood within a matter of minutes. There is absolutely no harm in trying your hand at painting or sketching just for fun. Who knows, you may come across a part of yourself you were not aware of before, and love it! It can certainly add a new dimension to your personality... Definitely worth a shot huh? I think so.