What Is Art Therapy and How Can It Help Women?

When Dana Robbins, 45, began working with an art therapist to help with her overall mental health, she was amazed at how freeing painting on canvas can be.

“It just felt so free,” Robbins said. “I could paint whatever I wanted. There were no rules. And unlike meditation, it wasn’t difficult for me to get to a place of my meditation because I had something concrete to do.”

As a single mother with a difficult life, Robbins also enjoyed the absence of expectations.

“There was no pressure to do it right or to do it right,” Robbins said. “How often in life do you have the opportunity to indulge in something and not have to worry about the outcome?”

Robbins said she no longer sees an art therapist, but the experience of working with one has been helpful, particularly in helping her connect with her childhood — which she experienced quite a bit of trauma. Feeling connected to the younger self is one of the many possible goals of art therapy

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy facilitated by a professional art therapist.

“It is an expressive therapeutic practice where people can use art materials, creative expression, and a relationship with a therapist to improve their emotional, mental, and physical well-being,” said New York-based art therapist Emily Sharp.

Like any other therapy, the goal of art therapy depends on what the client aims to achieve, but even so, the main goal of art therapy is to help clients express themselves.

“Art therapy is used to help a client express their feelings and also learn things about themselves,” said Lori Gordon, a therapist who offers “intuitive artistic expression.” “It can also be used as a tool to support clients on their journey of discovery, whether therapy is required or just for personal growth.”

How does art therapy work?

In an art therapy session, the client and therapist usually begin by talking.

“I like to ask how it’s going, what the week has been like, and then ask something like, ‘Would you like to express that visually? Or, if we were talking about a difficult situation or a difficult feeling, I would say, “Can you think of how to express that in colors or shapes or textures? What is the intensity of the color? What is the texture like?”

From there the art making process begins.

For the types of visual arts used in art therapy, painting is the most popular medium, along with clay, but diaries and other tools can also be used in an art therapy session.

What are the benefits of art therapy?

“the benefits [of art therapy] “It ranges from pure pleasure and meditation to self-discovery and release,” Gordon said. “I once had a client who was painting, and after they put paint randomly on the canvas [for] A few sessions, a huge bear appeared.

The takeaway from the bear picture?

“Their inner spirit was speaking through the bear, telling them they were tough,” Gordon said. “This helped [the client] From fear to freedom.

Aside from helping a potential person get in touch with their inner spirit, art therapy can also help people get rid of a problem that is weighing on them. For example, let’s say you’re going through conflict in a relationship and you’re having trouble opening up or describing the problem in words. You might sketch what the conflict looks like. This helps people gain some distance from the problem, which can feel like a weight is being lifted.

“In a way, making art allows you to bring out what’s going on inside so that you can take strong thoughts or feelings and put them somewhere else,” Sharp said. “The art materials and the paper you work with act as a container to hold things so you don’t have to carry them around yourself anymore. There is also a sense of security in being able to express things figuratively.”

Who helps art therapy?

Although art therapy is available to anyone of all ages, and no background in art is necessary, Sharp, which provides art therapy to a range of people, including those with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, sees a special place for art therapy in people’s lives. Women – especially those with anxiety.

“A lack of self-confidence can be deeply rooted in anxiety and art therapy really helps with that,” Sharp said. “With art therapy, you are forced to make decisions—to choose materials, color, subject matter, etc. You may notice, in the process, self-doubt emerging. You may hear this inner critic. You can choose to work through them, make your own choices, and see that you are Worth taking up space.”

Gordon often uses art therapy with postpartum clients, stating that it gives them a way to reconnect with the world and with themselves.

“It’s comforting and calming in the storm of a breakup,” Gordon said, adding that she also finds art therapy beneficial for women who have experienced abuse, as it helps them release anger, disappointment, mistrust, and shame.

“Art is a good medium because they don’t have to talk, but they can release pent-up emotions in a healthy way,” Gordon said.

Making art at home can help

There is also a strong case for not just art therapy – a clinical practice – but for art like A treatment that anyone can do on their own.

“One exercise I really like is to draw a trash can on a piece of paper and write on top of it all the things you want to get rid of in your life – all of them – even just ideas,” Gordon said.

Color the negatives. Anger can be red. depression can be black or dark blue; Frustration can be brown. Then tear the paper into small pieces and throw them away.

“After we’ve removed the paper with the negatives,” Gordon said, “we take another piece of paper, draw a trash can and turn the paper upside down and say, ‘What do we want to invite into our lives?'” “Write down all the wonderful things we would like to come into our lives. Decorate the paper with stickers, color and even paint – brightly written words. This piece of paper that we keep and put in our homes somewhere so that we are constantly reminded to focus on the good things we are working to bring into our lives.”

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