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The Art of Mental Health and Creative Expression

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By: Miranda R. Frank

Miranda R. Frank is a junior at Florida State University studying Creative Writing with a minor in Communications. She loves writing absolutely anything and everything, from poetry to research papers. She is passionate about information accessibility, and loves any opportunity to contribute to making essential information readily available to a wider audience.

What comes to mind when you hear the word therapy? Whatever it is you envision, that image is probably only one out of quite a number of approaches to therapy. For some, therapy can seem intimidating, rigid, or overly formal. Sometimes it can be difficult to articulate everything you may need to work through verbally, so what alternatives are there?


What are the Art Therapy Quick Facts?

Art therapy utilizes different means of personal and artistic expression as alternate methods of communication. The American Art Therapy Association explains how art therapy can function by engaging the mind, body and spirit, noting “Kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic opportunities invite alternative modes of receptive and expressive communication, which can circumvent the limitations of language. Visual and symbolic expression gives voice to experience and empowers individual, communal, and societal transformation”. The formal practice of art therapy can be traced back to the mid-20th century, the term having been coined by the artist Adrian Hill in 1942. At this time, tuberculosis patients in medical facilities were observed relieving their pain and worry through their artistic expression, and soon enough those practices became more formally adopted in hospitals throughout Europe and later around the globe. Now, art therapy is a method often used to analyze the conscious, unconscious, and the subconscious and how they manifest through different creative pursuits. Art therapy can include music, dance, theater, writing, painting, ceramics, drawing, and more.

What are the benefits of art therapy?
There are quite a few benefits that art therapy can provide. It can be an accessible form of treatment, even for those patients who have little-to-no artistic experience, and can also be quite approachable for those who struggle with verbal communication. It is also accessible to different patients regardless of age, and can be used to treat the elderly, the very young, and people of all other ages. It is designed to help individuals better understand themselves and heal, with the assistance of an art therapist trained to understand and interpret the meaning of different elements of the art and media developed by their patients. This treatment can be used in combination with other forms of therapy and can be very versatile. Research is even being conducted now about art therapy’s effects on physical health and healing, so these practices might have an even greater range of influence and application than before.

How to access art therapy?

Art therapy is practiced in schools, hospitals, senior communities, rehabilitation facilities, and more. If you are interested in looking into art therapy as a possible form of treatment, speak to your healthcare provider for further consultation and information. The Art Therapy Credentials Board, or the ATCB, is the organization responsible for conferring professional credentials for art therapy professionals. They also maintain records of every ATCB-certified therapist, which can
be a helpful resource in researching this form of treatment.

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