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  • Writer's pictureKOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH

Healing Power of Art

If you’re reading this article, you are probably an art lover, art enthusiast, or an artist. No matter which category you fall into, have you ever thought about why it’s so satisfying to create something with your hands? Penetrate with Martina Malášková the mysteries of art therapy.

The aesthetic appeal of paintings, drawings, and sculptures is often apparent at first sight, and we often focus just on the final result of our artistic activities. Artworks also provide powerful evidence of our culture and society.

There’s so much more to making art, however. The creative process itself. Its therapeutic value is undeniable, whether we’re aware of it or not, as is more often the case. Art can be undoubtedly considered one of the oldest forms of mental hygiene. It gives us the freedom to express ourselves, cope with sudden changes, sorrow, loss, pain, and illness, and share our happiness with others, too. This concept of art doesn’t put emphasis on the quality of the final result. It approaches the artwork as an artifact that reflects the maker’s mental state and personality and, most importantly, the parts of it that are normally hidden.

As such, art therapy serves as a bridge between the client and the therapist, and the creations can naturally and non-verbally bring to our attention issues that would otherwise stay hidden and unaddressed. Art can do very much for us, no matter whether we perceive it from the point of view of those who need help or those who can help others by carefully guiding the creative process and interpreting its outcomes.

Despite the fact that art has always had a certain kind of therapeutic purpose, the history of art therapy as we recognize it today is quite short. The term itself was first used only in the 1920s by the American psychologist, educator, and artist Margaret Naumburg. Since then, a number of psychological schools have adopted creative methods as a legitimate means in therapy, and art therapy as an independent form of therapy is increasingly popular. It can be used with great results in work with children, young people, the mentally ill, elderly patients, clients suffering from substance abuse, or incarcerated people. In the broader sense, we talk about art therapy, which includes therapies using drama or music; in the narrow sense, art therapy works with visual media.

In art therapy, every little detail in the creative process matters. It starts with the choice of mediums, format, and the topic itself. These choices are sometimes guided by the therapist, who has specific reasons in mind. Other times the client is absolutely free to choose whatever they feel like working with. The composition, placement, presence or absence of certain elements, colors, and their combinations – these and many other aspects of a piece of art can provide the therapist with invaluable information about their client, and all of this often without the client even uttering a single word. Of course, then come questions because the therapist needs a certain amount of context, but the expressive power of art is enormous. A client doesn’t even have to give his opinion regarding his artwork if he doesn’t want to.

In case the text above gave you some food for thought and enticed you to delve deeper into the process of self-discovery via art, you don’t have to start looking for the nearest art therapist yet. Try to explore your artwork on your own first.

Take a quiet moment to look at your pieces and think back. What motivated you to create those pieces?

· Did you want to capture something? Escape something unpleasant? Add something to your life that was missing?

· How were you feeling then?

· Are there any dominant colors? Why do you use them? What do they represent for you?

· What are the most frequent subjects in your artwork? What do you (not) like about them?

These and many other questions can make you more fully aware of what is actually happening in your life. And if you keep a collection of the things you’ve created, it serves as a great record of your life journey that might easily capture the most important moments in your life. Art in different forms is so readily available to us, and even if you don’t feel very creative on a particular day or in a certain period, you can still explore your feelings and make yourself feel better by watching other people’s art (in brief, this is what we call receptive art therapy). Whether it’s to compensate, find solace and hope or “just” destress, art in all its varieties offers us an incredible potential to heal and nurture our souls, and it would be a pity not to use it.



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