Art therapy helps children, adolescents, and adults explore their emotions, improve self-esteem, manage addictions, relieve stress, improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, and cope with a physical illness or disability. Art therapists work with individuals, couples, and groups in a variety of settings, including private counseling, hospitals, wellness centers, correctional institutions, senior centers, and other community organizations. No artistic talent is necessary for art therapy to succeed, because the therapeutic process is not about the artistic value of the work, but rather about finding connections between the creativity and the inner life. The artwork can be used for reawakening memories and telling stories that may reveal messages and beliefs from the unconscious mind.
Research shows that art therapy:
Calms the nervous system
Art therapy activities are meditative, quiet, and calming, which helps soothe symptoms of stress, nervousness, and irritability. A calm mind is better able to process difficult emotions and experiences. Over time, these experiences help individuals to feel more peaceful in general throughout their daily lives.
Many of us struggle with anxiety surrounding thoughts, feelings, or events that we cannot or don’t want to speak about out loud. Art therapy helps us express ourselves in a safe manner. Through thoughtful exercises and with the guidance of a compassionate and experienced therapist, individuals with anxiety can learn how to express how they’re feeling in a creative, constructive manner. Creative self-expression helps each of us connect with experiences and emotions in a healthy, rewarding way.
When we engage in creative pursuits, we often discover new aspects of ourselves that we weren’t aware of before. It’s much easier to understand and identify with feelings and experiences that exist below the surface of our conscious minds when we focus on a creative activity.
Below are arts and crafts you can do at home without a ton of tools or even talent.
You likely doodled unconsciously in the margins of your notebook as a child and may have done so more recently while in a meeting for work.
Drawing for mental health, however, can be intentional. Using your preferred paper and tool of choice—crayons, colored or charcoal pencils, felt tip markers—you can aim to sketch your emotions as they emerge.
Relieve yourself from the pressure to create something original by using the fixed lines as a guide; that way, you can focus less on innovating and more on how you feel.
Top 7 benefits of coloring for adults:
- Your brain experiences relief by entering a meditative state
- Stress and anxiety levels have the potential to be lowered
- Negative thoughts are expelled as you take in positivity
- Focusing on the present helps you achieve mindfulness
- Unplugging from technology promotes creation over consumption
- Coloring can be done by anyone, not just artists or creative types
- It’s a hobby that can be taken with you wherever you go
Start with a handful or hunk of clay. It can be molded, pinched, and carved to your liking to reflect your feelings so that you can release them.
Consider it a passive approach to making art; instead of inventing, you alter what already exists. Grab some old magazines, a glue stick, and a pair of scissors and get to collaging! Choose to either be intentional in your choices, picking images and phrases that speak directly to your state of mind, or let your hand lead the way and review your selections later to see what they reveal.
The process is unique for everyone – some people choose to focus mainly on artmaking, while others prefer to talk and might use materials simply to self sooth while they speak about a difficult topic. Remember – you don’t have to be an artist to benefit from art therapy! You don’t even have to know anything about art materials. Your therapist is there to guide you.
Whether or not you consider yourself an artist, art therapy can be a powerful tool for communicating, regulating emotions, and developing insight.
Anita Levesque is a web and graphic designer, a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. The goal of her website, http://mentalillness-doyouknow.com is to focus on personal experiences rather than articles by doctors and medical professionals who haven’t experienced mental illness. Anita writes articles for several websites on topics such as OCD, Addictions, Suicide, PTSD and more. She resides in Stoney Creek, Ontario and interests are photography, reading, music, learning, spending time with her family.