June 25, 2015

From drawing to discovering your inner chef in the kitchen, art mediums have widely been recognized as a form of therapy for those who are being treated for mental disorders. 

For years, psychologists and psychiatrists have turned to art therapy to help their patients if they are having difficulty calming themselves. Research has found that creativity is beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety disorders or have trouble expressing their feelings. Often times, psychologists and psychiatrists will recommend individuals use a creative outlet to help express negative feelings in a positive manner.

However, art therapy isn’t just for people who have a clinical diagnosis. Most of us can benefit from the simplicity of writing in a diary or sketching out issues that are holding us back. To get started, reflect on things that you find calming or inspiring, working to involve some form of art that stimulates the five basic senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and sound.

You don’t need to be a talented artist to receive the benefits of art therapy. Simply by working your creativity for as little as 15 minutes a day can help manage behaviors and feelings, reduce stress and improve self-esteem and awareness.  As different as an individual’s art is, so is what art therapy can achieve for different people. It can be used by therapists, or for treatment, psychotherapy, healing and as a way to provide the artist with a deeper understanding of him or herself.

We live in a world where there is an unlimited amount of ways to communicate and express our personalities and art therapy is just another form. Try listening to music, or creating music if you’re musically inclined. In fact, often times, music therapy is used to trigger memories for dementia patients. By playing music from a patient’s earlier life, like Frank Sinatra or old legends, the crooning of the musician can be calming and used as a mode of intervention.

Perhaps you feel the most at ease with a pencil in your hand, recapping the day’s events or writing a work of nonfiction. Or maybe you feel at peace with each stroke of a paintbrush, noticing that when you sit back and look at your painting, your colors are darker when you’re feeling down and brighter when you’re feeling more upbeat. Even cooking, baking and wandering through an art museum can constitute as art therapy – there’s no right or wrong form.

Medication alone will not heal someone’s distress. Whether it’s an emotional state or mood disorder, we still need ways of instituting cognitive and behavior techniques that help our thought patterns and improve our moods.

Once you get into your preferred mode of art, you’ll soon notice the many uses and benefits to expressive art therapies that can help to improve your life in a number of different ways. Whether you are being treated for a mental illness or are simply having a difficult day, it can be a great way to release stress after a long week. Be creative, be expressive and reap the benefits of opening your creative mind.