Not everyone is good at expressing themselves verbally.
How does it work?
Artists for centuries have known that art making in itself is inheritably therapeutic. Whilst allowing you to be free, playful and creative, art making also encourages mini-risk taking and experimentation. It has the potential to enrich a person's life.
But the power of art therapy extends beyond recreation and relaxation.
It can help us release emotions.
When words are not enough, we turn to images and symbols to tell our stories. The art therapist is trained to recognise the nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are difficult to express in words.
In imagery, things are not linear- there is no beginning and end as in a verbal story. As it surpasses the rule of language, syntax, grammar, and logic, it can express many complexities simultaneously. Contradictory elements can be included; love and hate for a family member, for instance. If you are someone who experiences contrasting emotions in quick succession, and struggles to articulate what exactly it is that you are experiencing, art may help you to integrate and synthesize conflicting parts of yourselves.
Often in this process, suppressed unconscious thoughts and patterns, forgotten memories, or answers to existential concerns that have no rational solutions would emerge.
Effective therapies require more than an intellectual analysis but rather an experience of how to practically apply new understandings in life. The hands-on experience could evoke a sense of “playfulness” in adults, helping one to “let go” of fear of failure and rejection.
Numerous researches have shown its effectiveness in helping someone tap into their inner resources, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.” (American Association of Art Therapy)
Who is it for?
You DO NOT need to have previous experience or skill in art, be ‘good at art’, or be particularly ‘creative' to give art therapy a go.
The art therapist is not primarily concerned with aesthetics.The process, rather than the end result, is at the core of the therapy. Art making is almost universally possible. Evidence has backed up that art therapy can work with adults with a range of difficulties including depression, addictive and self- destructive behaviours, learning difficulties and psychotic illnesses .
Will you interpret my drawing?
A quick answer is yes and no. The use of artwork as diagnostic tool is a complex and controversial subject. Usually, the meaning of your artwork will be the result our collaborative conversation, rather than a one-way interpretation from me.
“ The art therapist is not primarily concerned with making … diagnostic assessment… The overall aim of its practitioners is to enable a client to effect change ad growth on a personal level through use of art materials…”- BAAT
Nowadays, many art therapists including myself advocate not interpreting art but simply allowing the meaning of the material to emerge. It was believed that art diagnosis obscures the deeper meanings of art expressions and blocks their healing powers. In other words, we are concerned with preserving the “soul and imagery” expressed in peoples’ art, rather than have them interpreted and oriented to goals and outcomes.
When the artwork is created, the permanence of it offers a unique area of involvement; you can continuously look at it, be intrigued by it, and eventually be challenged to explore their meanings.
The experimental nature of art making also re-directs you into speaking in the “here-and-now”. Ensuring that both you and the therapist are “present” is particularly important when a catharsis take place. By staying in the present moment, and by experiencing their conflicts you will gradually expand self-awareness and thus personal growth.
Since qualifying as an Art Psychotherapist, I have practised in Australia and the UK in various settings from special education schools to the NHS. If you are curious about art therapy, I would be delighted to go on a journey of discovery with you.