While the benefits of traditional talk therapy are expansive and undeniable, numerous benefits can be seen in non-traditional methods of therapy as well. One such therapy to recently grow in popularity is art therapy, that is, the creation of art in a therapeutic context.
What is art therapy?
Art therapy utilizes artistic practices – painting, drawing, sculpting or otherwise creating regardless of the medium – to promote mental health. Art therapy works to slow down a mind overwhelmed by life and bring it into the peaceful present moment focused on the creation of art. It keeps you focused on the task at hand, allowing you to explore the emotions and feelings which the art brings to the surface. Art therapy isn’t about painting the next ‘Sistine Chapel’ or ‘Mona Lisa’, it’s about expressing and exploring your thoughts and emotions in a non-verbal way.
Who can benefit from art therapy?
Art therapy was not designed to treat just one particular thing. It can help reduce stress built up because of your job, it can minimize anxiety, and it’s been proven to help with mental health issues like depression, addiction, ADHD, trauma, grief and loss, PTSD and eating disorders. Because of its non-verbal nature, it can be especially beneficial for those disinclined to speak about difficult topics or those who find traditional talk-therapy intimidating. Additionally, you don’t have to be an experienced or even talented artist to benefit from art therapy. So long as you’re open to the process and the experience, you can find restored mental health through art therapy.
While art therapy is not recommended as the only form of therapy regardless of the individual’s diagnosis, it is recommended as a supplemental form of treatment, and one that many treatment centers, including Seeds of Hope, find important to incorporate into their programs.
How does art therapy work?
Art therapy works alongside other methods of therapy, such as talk therapy, to boost self-esteem and confidence, reduce stress and anxiety and help individuals to process thoughts and feelings brought about by their mental health condition.
There are many ways the art therapist could help promote this, and one such strategy is through painting the same scene twice. For example, an individual struggling with an eating disorder could be asked to come up with a scene that’s easy enough to duplicate, and paint it where the subject is in the midst of the struggle. What would it look like to create a piece of art detailing what it’s like to be in the midst of a battle against an eating disorder?
The second painting, then, would be a depiction of freedom; what does the individual envision life to look like once they’ve achieved their mental health goals and won the battle over the eating disorder?
When concepts such as these are approached in an art therapy session, facing those thoughts and emotions can be just as difficult as if they were being talked about. For those who would prefer to not talk about it until they’ve initially processed it via their artwork, it can be a really crucial step in the healing process.
Benefits of art therapy for eating disorders
Eating disorders tear away at all the strengths art therapy seeks to build up, namely, self-esteem and confidence, as well as emotional peace and mental well-being. Eating disorders try to isolate the individual in order to keep the disorder secretive or not noticeable. However, art therapy strives to bring those emotions, thoughts and feelings out of the dark and into the light in a healthy, productive way. By exploring your emotions through art in the controlled environment of an art therapist’s studio, you may begin to feel the disorder lessen its hold.
Other benefits of art therapy include:
- Self-management – This can be beneficial for binge-eating disorder, where art therapy helps address and improve behaviors like discipline and healthy lifestyle choices.
- Addressing trauma – Some eating disorders are a result of past sexual or emotional abuse, and art therapy can help one understand and address this root cause.
- Reducing perfectionism – Eating disorders are obsessed with perfectionism, but art therapy encourages self-expression and exploration, which is rarely a perfect process.
- Providing a healthy distraction – Art therapy can be a very good way to get one’s mind off the disorder and instead allow the individual to focus solely on the task in front of them.
Ask about art therapy
If you want to incorporate art therapy into your treatment program, ask your therapist today about finding an art therapy program. If you’re in the process of finding a treatment facility, take the time to ask if their program includes art therapy. For example, at Seeds of Hope, we value the interconnectedness of the mind and body and therefore include art therapy as a valuable part of treatment.
For more information, or to apply to one of our treatment programs, contact Seeds of Hope today at 610-644-6464.