Let’s normalize talking about mental health. Seeking help is typically procrastinated due to improper mental wellness being seen as abnormal. However, at youth or during adulthood we all experience losing our mind a little bit. Whether it be our mid-life crisis, a forced career change, family trauma and so on, the list is endless. And, we all can use some holistic healing when life derails. But, with restoring our mind comes talking about what’s occurring inside it and not everyone is able to communicate their emotions well enough to be understood. Well at least maybe not with words. But what about art? What if someone handed you a pencil and said to draw on paper what your mind feels like? Or maybe you get told to create a playlist of songs that speak to you emotionally. Would you be more inclined to seek out therapy?
Christina Jeffrey, LMHC and Chief Reputation Officer at Humantold told CELEB “Art can open people up in ways that direct Socratic engagement may not. We respond to art emotionally, viscerally, and spiritually; we don’t always allow ourselves that freedom when in direct conversation or even in traditional therapy setting.” She continued, “Much like play therapy or the incorporation of games in working with clients, including artistic creation and expression, can open avenues of discourse that may otherwise be blocked by traditional analysis and talk therapy.”
The definition according to the American Art Therapy Association– “Art Therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treament goals as well as community concerns. Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.”
Just like traditional therapists, a state license is required as well as training and certification to become an art therapist. A.K.A. those adult coloring books that you keep hashtagging “art therapy” with on social media are not actually it. “Art Therapy is so much more,” said Donna Betts, President of the board of directions for the AATA and Assistant Professor of Art Therapy. She continued to explain that the adult coloring books travel the line between being a hobby or a way of zoning out and being a mental health profession that heals clients.
Who Is It For?
Art therapists work in various settings with a diverse population. They work with individuals who experience medical and mental health issues and also those who want to pursue emotional, creative, and spiritual growth. We all have a creative muscle inside of us. We exercise when we imagine the day ahead of us, explore new things, problem solve and more.
When discussing the step of finding what the patients creative outlet will be, Christina shared with CELEB that “it will most often depend on the client’s age and their interests. Some clients are more drawn to music as a form of expression, while others may gravitate more towards the visual arts like painting or photography, and others prefer writing, sculpture, or even cooking and baking.” Everyone expresses themselves in their own individual way. Christina shared “part of my job in helping clients better understand themselves is helping them explore and identify how to best express themselves in healthy, adaptive, and sustaining ways.”
“Create Meaning And Dialogue Together”
Christina explained to CELEB that she doesn’t go into her session trying to translate her patients work that they share. Instead, she assists them in finding the words that best explain what their art defines. She talked about her professions saying “my work is about equipping clients to better identify what is going on with them and then communicate that to the people who matter in their life. By being curious about their work, I find that roads open into their psyche that then help us to create meaning and dialogue together. Not just around the art, but meaning and dialogue that can then be translated into other areas of their life.”
Is anybody else highly considering this type of therapy right now or is it just me? Seeing ourselves and our lives through a creative lense can open internal doors to conversations that we were once unable to have.
Experts at Humantold, a New York-based provider of evidence-based, compassionate psychotherapy are noticing a positive shift in therapy experience when approaching it from an alternative method such as art. To them, art is a strategy that can be used by therapists to comfortably engage youth in therapy. Christina commented, “By incorporating creative work in therapy, I would argue that therapy is in and of itself a creative endeavor- we get to practice being the people we want to be in a safe space.”