Healing with Visual Arts
Not everyone is good at expressing themselves verbally.
You DO NOT need to have previous experience or skill in art, be ‘good at art’, or be particularly ‘creative’ to healing arts a go.
HOW DOES healing with visual arts WORK?
Contrary to common beliefs, healing from arts is NOT about being good at art.
Conventional 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. It is not an art lesson or an activity group. You do not need to have used art materials, or make a skilled piece of art work.
Imaginative activity in itself is in itself therapeutic. Whilst allowing you to be free, playful and creative, creativity also encourages mini-risk taking and experimentation. It has the potential to enrich a person’s life.
But the power of creative arts extends beyond recreation and relaxation. It can help us release emotions and get in touch with unconscious materials.
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 healing work require more than an intellectual analysis but rather an experience of how to practically apply new understandings in life. The experience of talking through metaphors and visuals could evoke a sense of “playfulness” in adults, helping one to “let go” of fear of failure and rejection.
I adopt a multimodal approach of Creative Arts healing that may include the use of visual imagery, symbols, movement, poetry, music, journalling and play.
WILL YOU INTERPRET MY imagery?
The use of imagery as diagnostic tool is a complex and controversial subject. Usually, the meaning of your visual journal, photographs or artwork will be the result our collaborative conversation, rather than a one-way interpretation from me.
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 creative 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.
By staying in the present moment, and by experiencing their conflicts you will gradually expand self-awareness and thus personal growth.
Art- based healing for EMOTIONAL DIFFICULTIES
Art- based healing is found to be one of the most helpful treatments for difficulties in emotional regulation. You may find it useful because of its ability to directly address affect regulation on a neurological level, as well as its potential to unearth deep-seated memories and beliefs. When it comes to affect regulation, arts is able to work on a level that talking therapy sometimes does not reach.
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- based work differs from other psychological therapies in that it is a three way process between the client, the coach 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 for continued exploration, reflection and comparison over a period of time, where words can be easily forgotten and denied. When something 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.
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.