Westberg: Art therapy a beneficial new therapy


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art therapy drawing

Lacey Westberg

Mental illness can be hard for people to deal with, whether they are being directly affected or a loved one is. Mental illness is a disease in the brain due to a chemical imbalance or a side effect from an undeveloped part of the brain. Usually, these illnesses affect people’s everyday lives in more ways that one. Doctors prescribe medication that may or may not cause side effects, some of which can be dangerous.

Many therapists have now come up with the concept of art therapy. Art therapy is a creative method of expression through different forms of art such as drawing, music or writing.

Art therapy is used for many different forms of mental illness, even for the mental illnesses that make people unable to speak. You do not have to be able to verbally communicate to do art therapy either, which is why it is very common for people who are autistic or mute.

According to various studies from the American Art Therapy Association, many different emotions and underlying issues have been found by utilizing art therapy. For example; if a patient is played a heavy metal song but comes out with a happy response it may be a sign that they have a hard time telling the difference between safety and anger, signaling a possibly abusive relationship.

Another common form of art therapy is drawing something when asked a question, and then the therapist bases the rest of the session off of what they can pull out from the drawing. For example; if a child was asked to draw a picture of their family and they drew a picture of what looked like the mom and the child together, but the father was not near them, the therapist might get the sense that the child does not have a father present or that they do not consider the father to be part of the family.

Art therapy is becoming a very booming business because of its very high success rate. The success is not only based off of the evaluations, but it is also based off of the physical calmness the patients seem to get almost instantly. Art therapy is not only for children, as there are also a lot of art therapists in nursing homes, hospitals and veterans clinics.

The reason that many people think it helps mental illness more than medications is because it involves learning how you work before the diagnosis. Many people with mental illnesses don’t know what’s wrong with them when they get put onto medications, which can throw off the success rate of the pill because of possible added anxiety. People who are put on meds in minor cases of mental illnesses can also become dependent on them, causing addiction or the feeling that they cannot function without them. Art therapy teaches the patient’s not only how to cope and deal with the illness while they are in session, but the lessons get to stay with them forever, making for an easy and very positive way for people to get help.

There are many misconceptions about what art therapy is. One of the biggest is adult coloring. While many people find adult coloring soothing and to be a form of relaxation, it is not a technical term of art therapy. When doing art therapy it’s not only drawing or writing something; it also involves having a professional there to evaluate the work or progress being done.

Some people who attend art therapy workshops for self-revelation come out thinking that they, too, can practice art therapy, which is simply not the case. An art therapist has actually gotten their license and has gone to school for the profession. Actual art therapy involves an evaluation and for the patients to do work outside of the sessions, such as tracking their dreams or thoughts in a journal. The emotional connection between a therapist and a patient never goes away, and I feel this is a cool way to be able to look back from where you’ve come from to where you are now. Art therapy is an amazing form of therapy for anyone to try, whether they have a mental illness or not.