Heal thyself. with art

Art therapy has long proven to effectively aid patients' recovery. Now, it is demonstrating great value in dealing with mental illness too

By Ritu Chaturvedi, art therapist

Published: Thu 23 Jul 2020, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 31 Jul 2020, 11:09 AM

Art is not just another platform for creativity - it serves as a medium for healing as well. In the words of Pablo Picasso, "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
There is a clear distinction that can be 'drawn' between art lessons and art therapy. The former is used to teach someone how to polish or refine their art skills; the latter, however, works as a way to heal the wounds of the mind.
Historically, healing through art therapy has been known to offer positive results in the treatment of many life-threatening injuries. The masterpieces by Frida Kahlo, created while fighting her illness, are a testament to art therapy's healing powers.
Art encourages one to be more productive by providing a medium to relieve pain and/or emotional stress. For someone who is battling mental illness, art therapy in the form of music, painting, pottery, etc. can be used as a means to provide them a haven and lead them to recovery.
In the middle of the 20th century, a few doctors across rehabilitation centres came up with the idea of treating their patients through art therapy: they decided to work together with artists to treat their patients. This was not limited to just art: music, writing poetry, drama and even gardening were used as an experiment for the treatment. The experimental art therapy continued for a couple of months and showed remarkable results with patients recovering over the course of a few months. Art therapy has since been a welcome part of patients' healing process.
Edith Kramer, who was the pioneer of art therapy, once said, "My therapeutic medium is as old as mankind. Since human society has existed, the arts have helped man to reconcile the eternal conflict between the individual's instinctual urges and the demands of society. Thus, all art is therapeutic in the broadest sense of the word."
Among the many advantages of communicating through art therapy is its ability to convey hidden emotions - so much so that the person experiencing art therapy is also pleasantly surprised to see the outpouring of their hidden emotions through art. It helps to understand someone's feelings through the creative process of making art. It is highly liberal as it does not have any boundaries of rules or regulations.
Art always encourages one to express and explore. It keeps the mind busy in an intriguing way and helps to change one's track of thinking. Once the mind is focused on creating something, there is less room for stress. It gives direction to one's emotions.
There are seven recognised functions of art therapy: appreciation, growth, memory, hope, self-understanding, sorrow and rebalancing.
When the brain is focused on creating, one's coping skills improve on their own. The person experiencing this then starts to take an interest in himself and begins loving himself, thus setting him well on the road to recovery.

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