Art Therapy: Is It Effective?
Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way. Things I had no words for.” The actual creation of art triggers an unconscious process helping a person connect with his emotions (Kotwas). The process is said to enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The expressive arts do not discriminate and is an effective alternative to traditional psychotherapy and certain prescribed medications. The production and reflection of art helps people cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences. Creation is an essential part of life, much like eating, sleeping, and breathing, and we all possess unique artistic and creative tendencies and needs. Many people do not know what art therapy actually is, and it is not to be confused with an art class.
Art therapy is unlike art education, where the focus is on teaching the use of artistic tools and techniques as well as the quality of the finished product. Expressive arts therapy combines visual arts, music, writing and other creative processes to help a person express and visualize emotions, and to aid growth and healing (Artful). Art class consists of being criticized, graded by others, and can even become a stressful environment. Opposite of that is art therapy, where no judgment exists, therefore no pressure exists, and the focus is on self-growth and awareness. Adding the therapeutic aspect to art creates a calmer environment and encourages a positive setting for allowing an individual to be more focused and to create distinctive and sometimes eye opening products. Visualizing and expressing emotions is the language of the unconscious mind. Serving as a more primitive and direct mode of personal expression than words. Art therapy is successfully filling the gaps where general clinical psychology may not be able to reach. The expressive arts offer an alternative insight into the workings of the psyche, and it is an area of study that adds further depth to the field of child psychology (Kotwas). Instead of diagnosing children with ADD or ADHD and prescribing those 2.7 million children medication to take every day for the rest of their life, they could create. Art therapy is an effective alternative to the medications that are being prescribed to children, and making those children act like zombies, which is no way any human should ever act. Parents are too busy to spend time with a child and it seems as if they are afraid of parenting these days. Hyperactive children should not be drugged to the point of acting like a different person all together; instead they should be worked with patiently. Art naturally opens up a person’s mind and creates a euphoric and relaxed feeling. Also the creation of art lowers stress, eliminates negative thinking, and improves confidence. Expressing more than a child could possibly express by simply talking.
Children tend to have a hard time articulating the way they feel, because they do not know what it is they are feeling or why they are feeling this particular way. When children cannot verbalize the effect that violence has on them, they sometimes express it by drawing says Dr. Spencer Eth. He says that when children too traumatized to talk are told, “Just draw about anything you want,” their pictures reveal much about what is on their minds. Enabling therapists to ask children to tell a story, which usually has some connection with the trauma they have suffered. Eth continues by saying, “Drawing is one of the most effective techniques we have for getting a child to open up and confront difficult feelings – the first step in healing.” (Timnick). The idea of getting a child to open up seems pretty difficult, but the adolescent child is a whole new level of difficulty which can be done with the use of art.
Teenagers have a preconceived view of talking psychotherapies...
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