“I just can’t explain how I’m feeling” – so often whispered by someone in the midst of life challenges. When thoughts and feelings become entangled and overwhelming, words may become too difficult or a person may just feel more comfortable with non-verbal expression. When incorporating Art Therapy into counselling, a person is able to express their thoughts, emotions and experiences in a creative way that’s guided by their needs and preferences at that time. Objective perspective taking is most often revealing and insightful.
Art Therapy provides a creative approach to communicating one’s thoughts, feelings, perceptions and ideas – in a spontaneous and intuitive way – connecting inner experience with outer realities. Unexpressed feelings of emotional distress or trauma can result in harmful effects on the body and result in chronic pain – Art Therapy has been shown to relieve stress and control pain. Research shows that expressing traumatic or disturbing experiences in art contributes to overall health and wellbeing - even providing a boost to the immune system!
Techniques used in art therapy include art making in many forms guided by individual needs and preferences at the time. The artwork usually includes symbolic representations of body ailments, symbols for health, painting, drawing and writing journals, sandplay, symbols, clay work, music and movement and many other colourful and creative experiences. The Art Therapist will usually facilitate a guided visualisation to connect one’s mind with their imagination in a relaxing, meditative way. This will assist a person to access unconscious material promoting personal revelations.
Being “In the Flow”
“Flow” is the mental state of being completely present and fully absorbed in a task – such as art. When in a “flow state”, the creator and his or her world become one – outside distractions recede from consciousness, and the mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating.
Focusing your attention on one thing produces relaxation in your body and mind: your breath deepens, your heartbeat slows – physiological changes occur that release your body’s natural healing processes.
Often the artwork itself reveals something profound to the artist and this can continue to reveal itself for much time after its creation. Positive results have shown to ripple outwards into a person’s relationships and social environments.