Not everyone is good at expressing themselves verbally.
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 .
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)
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.
Art Therapy for BPD
Art Therapy is found to be one of the most helpful treatments for BPD. People with BPD may find art therapy usefulbecause of its ability to directly address affect regulation on a neurological level, as well as its potential to unearth deep-seated memories and beliefs.
At the core of Borderline Personality Disorder is the inability to, or difficulties in, regulating emotions. When it comes to affect regulation, Art Therapy is able to work on a level that talking therapy sometimes does not reach.
Art Therapy uses image and symbols as its primary mode of communication. It offers another way of bypassing the cognitive process and working directly with the neurological and somatic system.
Creating art enables communication between the left and right hemispheres. As even the simplest drawing depends on a complex interaction between many brain systems, art therapy offers the possibility to deal with basic sensory building blocks in the processing of information and emotions. Whilst the creative process addresses the right hemisphere of the brain, the verbal articulation of the image and what it represents facilitates links to the language and long-term memory on the left side of the brain. This process of integrating both brain pathways provides a mechanism for stress reduction and affect regulation.
In addition, art therapy differs from other psychological therapies in that it is a three way process between the client, the therapist and the arts. The art product is known as the ‘container for emotions’. It offers a mean of expression that is cathartic and less damaging to the therapeutic relationship than acting out verbally or physically, clients are therefore able to show aspects of themselves that would otherwise have remained hidden.
Moreover, art allows a temporal flexibility for continued exploration, reflection and comparison over a period of time, where words can be easily forgotten and denied. When an art product is created, the permanence of it offers a unique area of involvement. You can continuously look at the image, be intrigued by it, and eventually be challenged to explore their meanings.
Perhaps most relevant to people with BPD is how art expression can help people integrate and synthesize conflicting feelings and experiences. Individuals with difficulties regulating emotions may experience contrasting emotions in quick succession, and thus struggle to articulate what exactly it is that they were experiencing. However, as art expression surpasses rules of language, such as syntax, grammar, and logic, a myriad of thoughts and feelings may be contained on one page. This capacity for art to contain paradoxical elements can help clients integrate and synthesize conflicting internal states.
Through the techniques used in art therapy, you will be able to address many of the symptoms of BPD and other underlying issues.Working with your art therapist, your art can express your relationships with others and the emotions you deal with on a daily basis.
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.