A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. This is especially true in the treatment of mental health patients. For patients unable to adequately express their feelings verbally, the best approach is to allow them to speak through their art. This is especially true of children who often have problems talking about their painful experiences. Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy. Through the use of artistic expressions and other diagnostic procedures, doctors will be able to more accurately treat patients. The patients’ artistic expressions — through sketches, paintings or even sculptures — help still their erratic mind, allowing them to focus on their creation. This therapeutic process slowly helps them to contain the turmoil in their minds. University Malaya Head of Department of Psychological Medicine Professor Dr. Hussain Habil says: “Sometimes disturbed people cannot tell others about their feelings and thoughts. Art therapy not only allows them to tell their stories, it is also a healing process. “Through art, doctors will be able to analyse what they have gone through, what is on their minds and recommend the appropriate treatment.” Hussain says one of his patients refused to talk about her problem. For several sessions, she remained silent and uncooperative. Realising that the normal approach was not working, he decided to give her paper and colourful crayons, and encouraged her to draw anything she wanted. She began to open up. Her sketches were dark and gloomy, reflections of her severe depression. She had been sexually and physically abused, and using her paintings, she communicated her traumatic experiences. Hussain says art therapy is not a cure for mental illness, rather it is one of the methods to better understand patients and help them on their road to recovery. Often, the public has the misconception that patients with mental illness are dangerous so they are afraid to approach them. But the patients need someone to understand what they are going through. They are suffering from an illness and with proper treatment, they should be able to function normally, says Hussain. “The famous painter Van Gogh suffered from mental illness, too. He told his stories through his paintings. It shows that mental health patients are creative and the tool for them to express their state of mind is art.”
What is Art Therapy?
General Definition: Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art materials, such as paints, chalk and markers. Art therapy combines traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with an understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process, especially the affective properties of the different art materials. As a mental health profession, art therapy is employed in many clinical settings with diverse populations. Art therapy can be found in non-clinical settings as well, such as in art studios and in workshops that focus on creativity development. Art therapists work with children, adolescents, and adults and provide services to individuals, couples, families, groups, and communities. From the International Art Therapy Organization [IATO]: Art has the potential to change lives and in profound ways. When words are not enough, we turn to images and symbols to tell our stories. And in telling our stories through art, we can find a path to health and wellness, emotional reparation, recovery, and ultimately, transformation. Anyone can use it, you don’t need to be talented or an artist, and there are professionals that can work with you and delve into the underlying messages communicated through art. Art therapy can achieve different things for different people. It can be used for counseling by therapists, healing, treatment, rehabilitation, psychotherapy, and in the broad sense of the term, art therapy can be used to massage one’s inner-self in a way that may provide the individual with a deeper understanding of him or herself. Sometimes arts therapies take place...
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