The benefits of art therapy: Depression and anxiety
While sometimes people are able to speak about their thoughts and feelings well, it’s not always the case for others for lots of reasons: particularly if an individual is experiencing depressive symptoms such as low mood, self-esteem and confidence. They may be feeling isolated and uncomfortable talking to other people about what they feel.
People sometimes describe that when they are depressed they feel like they are in a dark tunnel which appears difficult to escape from. When feeling like this it can be challenging to find a way to communicate with others, it may be that there are no words to accurately describe how you are feeling.
Others find that no matter how much they talk about their feelings it doesn’t appear to help and they need other ways to help express themselves fully. They may be emotionally disconnected from what they are saying and need a bridge to help them to reconnect.
Art therapy and emotions
Art therapy can benefit people in the above situations by providing a connection between their inner thoughts, feelings and communication with others. Often clients in Art Therapy sessions comment that without creating a piece of art first in a session they would find it difficult to talk directly about themselves. The client can communicate using the artwork to explain their emotions.
The artwork helps to open up communication and increase self-awareness. Using the example of someone who feels that they are trapped in a dark tunnel, this image could be utilised in an art therapy session as a starting point for the client to describe their experience.
Art therapy encompasses a mixture of creating art and talking to facilitate self-expression. Clients do not need any prior experience or skills in art. It is not always necessary to explain a piece of artwork in words. Sometimes people directly express their feelings in the artwork e.g. an angry picture, sadness etc. This kind of self-expression can offer direct relief from feelings that could be overwhelming if left unexpressed. These images can often be abstract and messy, similar to some emotions.
There is no definitive or right way for clients to create art in art therapy sessions; clients can create whatever comes to mind or create spontaneously. The art therapist may sometimes make suggestions for the client to consider if they are struggling to make art.
Art therapists - what to expect
Art therapists are trained and experienced in both art and psychological therapy which enables them to work in partnership with the individual to facilitate self-expression and enhance communication. They have a thorough understanding of the effect that art materials and the art therapy process can have on people. Art therapists utilise this dual training to work in alliance with their clients to help identify and express emotions in a way that is comfortable and beneficial for the client.
Art therapists, also known as art psychotherapists complete postgraduate training in Art Psychotherapy. Prior to this training, they have considerable experience in the field of health, social care or education. Art therapists are regulated by the Health Professions Council and abide by the HPC and British Association of Art Therapists code of ethics.