Art Therapy is a therapeutic modality that involves an art therapist and client working with the creative art making process to support a client’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Working with the creative process allows people to reach deeper levels of healing that talk therapy alone cannot always do.
If you have trouble expressing yourself verbally or find yourself unable to describe your experience with words, then working with art can help you express yourself without the use of words. Studies have shown how trauma impacts the verbal language area of the brain making it difficult to use or even find the right words to effectively verbalize traumatic events. The ability to use images and symbols can facilitate healing when words fail. Creating art can also feel like a safer way to express yourself which also ignites the healing process. Visual and symbolic expression can empower individuals and help develop self-awareness, explore emotions, address unresolved emotional conflicts, improve social skills, and raise self-esteem.
You do not have to be an artist to engage in art therapy. This is a common concern and fear of many people who are not familiar with art therapy. You do not need to know how to draw or paint or do anything. You are not responsible for creating a great masterpiece. Art therapy focuses on the creative process itself. It is about what is coming up for you while you are creating. As an art therapist I will not be judging or critiquing your art. I am with you to support your process and make sure you feel safe.
Many clients choose to create a variety of pieces. Some clients like to paint pictures while others like to experiment with mixing paint colors. A few clients may roll balls of clay with their hands while others create pinch pots or clay animals. There are clients who like to draw cartoons while other clients just like to scribble on a page or two. As individual needs are different so is the creative process to each client. Your “art” is whatever you create it to be and that is okay.
As an art therapist I focus on a client’s strengths, interests, and abilities so engaging in the creative process feels safe and comfortable. Art expression includes drawing, painting, sculpting, clay, writing, collage, poetry, music, and much more. Research supports the use of art therapy and acknowledges the therapeutic benefits gained through artistic self-expression.
It is always the client’s choice to engage in art therapy or not. It is okay to start at anytime and it is okay to stop at anytime.
Benefits of Art Therapy
• Promotes self-expression and self-awareness
• Supports self-care, balance, and well being
• Decreases stress, depression, and anxiety
• Manages chronic pain and physical ailments causing distress
• Encourages the development of healthy and effective coping skills
• Explores traumatic experiences in a safe manner
• Assists in improving focus and memory
• Develops problem solving skills and interpersonal/social skills
*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.