By Sara Borrhello, BYS Counselor
Artistic expression can sometimes feel like the only option when words just aren’t enough or can’t be found. And too often, not using verbal language isn’t a preference or a choice, but rather a result of a trauma, anxiety, a deeper desire to communicate in a more intimate way, or personal preference. Art can go places words cannot and creates pathways to the soul. These paths can be surprising and unexpected, leading to newfound emotions, suppressed memories, disguised triggers, and hidden traumas. Art therapy can be a wonderful alternative to traditional therapy for those who feel best understood and seen through the creation of visuals and other art forms.
Art has long-standing ties dating back to early civilizations and first found artworks. The building and creation of objects and spaces beg the question; which intrigued the other: Is art a result of personal impact or is the art-making process the most insightful? When we look back at early civilizations and first found artworks, those works are representations of time and memory. The Taj Mahal was a grief and bereavement process, Picasso’s blue period was a walk through his lingering depression, and Monet and Degas’ repetitive images and changing colors were an emotional process of vision loss. Pioneering psychologists who reference arts and images realized that the arts are channels for communication. Arts, including music, dance, and visual arts, are all channels for non-verbal communication and expression.
Art can be a tool used to sculpt and mold a new narrative. Art therapy assists in creating a personal narrative. Telling one’s story is central to integrating traumatic experiences, developing a sense of identity, and helping others understand and relate. Because art making occurs within the realm of the imagination, it opens the door to the story, and to remembering important events that may have been forgotten, or whose significance is unknown.
Art therapy is founded on the idea that the process of making art is just as valuable, if not the most informative, as the completed artwork – the product. The product is not the goal, but is a reflection of the therapeutic journey. In other words, you do not need any experience with art-making to benefit from art therapy. Sometimes the simplest expression through color, symbols, and marks can be the most impactful.
If you are interested in exploring art therapy, please inquire when making a counseling appointment at askBYS.org.
Gussak, David E.; Rosal, Marcia L. (2015). The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy (Gussak/The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy) || . , 10.1002/9781118306543(), –. doi:10.1002/9781118306543