Benefits of Art Therapy

Have you ever taken some time for yourself by doing something crafty and felt a sense of happiness? Art therapy can be helpful for just about everyone. Several benefits come from using our imaginations and expressing ourselves through different forms of artwork. 

The best part is you do not need a specific artistic talent, as there is no wrong way to create art! All art is considered beautiful. Each individual has their unique style of creation; therefore, someone out there will take appreciation for your piece. 

Clients suffering from several different mental illnesses benefit from art therapy too. Receiving a doctor’s referral and meeting with an art therapist can be life-changing for individuals seeking new or unique methods of treatment.

What Is Art Therapy?

According to an article published in Frontiers in Psychology, art therapy is a non-pharmacological therapy that has beneficial effects on individuals diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. This type of therapy can elevate a person’s self-awareness and enhance cognitive abilities. Art therapy can help a person better cope with stress, past trauma, and certain symptoms associated with their addiction or mental illness. In addition, art psychotherapy engages the mind and body in ways that are different than traditional therapy. 

Common Forms

Art therapy can be expressed in several different styles and mediums. The main forms of art therapy include:

  • Painting
  • Drawing: blind drawing, spiral drawing, drawing or painting self-portraits
  • Creating collages
  • Making sculptures out of clay
  • Taking photographs

While other forms of art exist, they’re typically their own modalities of expressive therapy. The medium an art therapist uses will often depend on the client’s preferences.

Who Should Consider Art Therapy?

Art therapy can be a complementary treatment for people struggling with their mental health. According to the Frontiers in Psychology article, art therapy is mainly used for clients that struggle to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Art therapy is used for clients who experience the following mental struggles: 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Trauma
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression (MDD)
  • Substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Grief and loss
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Although art therapy is primarily used for clients having a difficult time coping with mental illness, it can be beneficial for anyone. This includes all individuals, families, groups, and couples of any age from any background.

The Role of an Art Therapist

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, art therapists work in different environments with clients that come from various backgrounds. They work with students and people of all ages either individually or in group settings. Some therapists work in their practice or serve schools, psychiatric hospitals, and community clinics. Therapists use art and psychology on the job daily.

Art therapists combine therapeutic techniques with art in order to assist a client’s healing. Their background in psychology informs the assignments they create. They may start by helping the client explore their identities and values. Then, they could explore the client’s family system. They can create assignments that allow their client to visually express past joys and traumas.

Sometimes, a client is not ready to talk about their emotions. The client’s artistic pieces can be explored at a later date. Most importantly, they expressed themself through a creative outlet. When a client is ready to communicate their feelings, the art therapist may discuss coping strategies.

Just like other medical professionals, art therapists work hard to develop assessments, form treatment plans, and edit summary reports for review. They can work with others on a care team to monitor symptoms and progress.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy can help improve mood and increase self-worth. This is especially helpful for clients with high-stress levels and low self-esteem. Self-expression can help a person recognize and identify their emotions. This improves emotional intelligence. Moreover, art can offer a less painful method for handling trauma. By expressing themselves, a client may find emotional regulation skills easier to execute.

Art Therapy for Substance Use Disorder

According to a 2014 Journal of Addictions Nursing study, art therapy includes an array of activities specifically targeted to treat individuals with SUD. Art therapy has been used as a treatment for SUD dating as far back as the 1950s. The therapy helps the client better cope with the disease by allowing the individual to express emotion through creative exercises. Specific forms of therapy include: 

  • Drawing an incident that occurred when using certain substances
  • Painting or drawing emotions that are being felt in relation to SUD 
  • Creating sculptures 
  • Expressing feelings in an art journal

These different forms of art therapy help the patient relieve feelings of stress and anxiety that were associated with SUD. The mass majority of treatment techniques used for individuals with SUD involve a highly creative process. Some forms of therapy may include the interpretation of each piece. 

If you’re struggling with a mental illness, you might feel disconnected from yourself. This is a normal part of mental health struggles. Art therapy is a holistic therapy that can help you reconnect with your thoughts, emotions, values, and experiences. At 12 South Recovery, we offer art therapy to all of our clients. We understand that people at every level of care may benefit from a visual format of self-expression. Additionally, we know that art therapy can help resolve symptoms no matter whether you’re coping with mental illnesses, substance use disorder, or a dual diagnosis. If you need help getting on a healthier path, call 12 South Recovery at 866-839-6876 to learn about our treatment options.

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