“ I found I could say things with colours and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way, things I have no words for. ” — Georgia O’Keeffe
It may surprise you to learn that art-making is a highly effective tool in mental health. Art therapy is a therapeutic modality that uses art materials and creative expression to foster mental well-being and alleviate psychological distress. It is beneficial for clients of all ages and it does not require any artistic skills or talent.
The art therapist is not there to teach art or to criticize the aesthetics of clients’ visual work. Clients create pictures in the sessions and discuss them with their therapist. The latter works with clients to deepen the underlying messages conveyed by their art. By combining verbal and visual therapeutic techniques, art therapy facilitates the exploration of clients strengths and blockages and helps them develop skills to better manage the events in their lives.
Research shows that art therapy can help a variety of psychological and developmental problems. For example, art-therapeutic interventions are effective for people who have frightening memories or who experience strong emotions following a traumatic event (abuse, bereavement, separation, etc.). In addition, art therapy helps people with chronic illnesses or disabilities to overcome their pain and cultivate resilience. This approach is effective for families who are trying to reconcile emotional conflicts. People experiencing stress, anxiety or those seeking personal growth and to increase their self-esteem also benefit from art therapy.
Art therapy is an approach widely used with children and adolescents. Art therapy allows children to express life problems and helps reduce stress and anxiety during these challenges. By providing children and adolescents with a safe space to express their negative thoughts and emotions in images, art therapy has been shown to improve their mental and emotional well-being and social engagement.