Understanding the role of an art therapist
While medical science has made great progress in terms of understanding and treating a lot of health issues, there are some wonderful alternative treatments and therapies when it comes to addressing issues pertaining to human psychology and mental health.
Often times there are deep-rooted psychological issues that remain repressed and do not surface easily even during counseling sessions. Some of them could be a result of intense trauma, anxiety, or low self-esteem. In such situations, a creative environment that fosters healthy interaction through self-expression works beautifully.
Art therapy encourages people to express and analyze their emotions through artistic expression and through a creative process. It involves the therapeutic use of art making under the supervision of a professional art therapist by people who experience challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. The process of creating an art form and the end result can increase an individual’s awareness of self and others. It helps them cope with symptoms of stress and enhance cognitive abilities.
An Art Therapist is a professional trained in both art and therapy. They possess knowledge about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art. During the course of their therapy, they use art in treatment, assessment, and research. They also provide consultations to allied professionals.
Art therapists work with people of all ages, individuals, couples, families, groups, and communities. Their services could be individual or as a part of clinical teams that aid treatment in mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions as well as community outreach programs, wellness centers, schools, nursing homes, corporate structures, or independent practitioners. Art therapy can bring in different results for different people.
Trained to pick up on nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are often expressed through art and the creative process, concepts that are usually difficult to express with words, the art therapist often is instrumental in making discoveries that can help an individual address and heal their issues. Encouraging them to explore and engage with their thought processes and feelings, the art therapist guides the patients actively through the creative process.
Different modes of art are used to channel the patient’s energies, namely painting, sculpture and other forms of expression like theatre, and dance to help them understand and work on their inner conflicts.
While art therapy, particularly Visual Art Therapy, tends to be based on one particular art form like painting or sculpture, Expressive Art Therapy resorts to a variety of art forms like music, theater, poetry, dance, or any other creative activity—as a therapeutic tool to help bring in a change. Expressive arts therapy synchronizes psychology and the creative process to promote emotional growth and healing. In expressive arts therapy, you are encouraged to use multiple senses to explore your inner and outer world through the experience and creation of different art forms.
You don’t require any special talents to benefit from this therapy. Getting submerged in the creative process can be quite a rewarding experience. In the company of the art therapist, you will slowly feel comfortable and get a hang of this newfound mode of self-expression. The therapist will work with you to interpret the underlying messages communicated through your art. It doesn’t matter how the artform ends up looking like. You are not in this to create an artistic masterpiece but with the goal of making the most out of the process to enhance your wellbeing.