If your first question is ‘what is art therapy?’ you are not alone. Art therapy is a relatively new form of treatment for helping improve one’s emotional and physical well being using their creativity. Through drawing, painting, sculpting, music and other art forms individuals may express thoughts and feelings they may not be able to express verbally.
The goals and purposes for using art therapy vary depending upon each individual, but by creating art people are finding relief from stress, and therapists are identifying underlying personal issues, allowing them to help patients with improved emotional and physical wellness.
Now you may be wondering how art therapy can actually help the brain – these are five ways in which art is being used to help the brain.
How Art Therapy Can Help The Brain
Art Therapy And Traumatic Brain Injury
Individuals that have experienced an injury to the head, possibly resulting in a concussion or lack of consciousness, may suffer from mild traumatic brain injury or TBI. The symptoms of TBI may last a couple of weeks or months, or maybe even indefinitely. The National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), a research center specializing in the care of military service personnel that have suffered TBI, uses art programs and therapies to help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve memory, attention span, and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Art Therapy And Self-regulation
The ability to calm one’s self down when upset, and bounce back from a negative experience is referred to as ‘self-regulation. Individuals that have experienced violence or extreme trauma may find that their ability to self-regulate has become hampered. Art therapy may be used in treatment, to provide the sensory experience of creating art, which tends to help individuals regulate their reactions to stress.
Art Therapy For Depression And Pain
Art therapy may be used to engage and distract individuals experiencing pain caused by treatments for illness or by the illness itself. Many art therapists believe that creating art influences brain wave patterns as well as the brain’s release of feel-good chemicals that result in positive feelings and a sense of wellness. Programs that include art therapies tend to help individuals with depression, express emotion, feel relief from emotional pain and anxiety, and experience a sense of freedom.
Art Therapy And Survivors Of Violence
Studies show that creative art therapies including painting, singing, dancing and dramatization, serve as self-soothing, stress-reducing behaviours. Through the use of creative art therapies, researchers are able to understand mind and body interactions and help trauma survivors and victims of violence make sense of the world around them.
Art Therapy And Mental Health
Art therapy is not age-specific, anyone may benefit. The American Art Therapy Association describes the process of art therapy treatment – to help people resolve problems or conflicts, develop interpersonal skills, manage behaviours and reduce stress. Professional art therapists integrate psychotherapeutic methods and techniques with the individual’s own sense of creativity, to increase coping skills, enhance cognitive function and improve overall mental health.
Although art therapy is used as a means of treating cognitive problems, creating art can benefit anyone. Whether we draw or paint to escape emotional stress, or we sing and dance to relieve the tensions of a week on the job, in having a creative outlet we can deal with the burdens of the mind and find that we are emotionally refreshed to tackle a new day. And who knows, you may discover you have an inner artist that’s been waiting to emerge!