For thousands of years we have used art to help us come to terms with a variety of life challenges including a sense of powerlessness and anxiety. Today art therapy is used by therapist to help individuals cope with a variety of issues including, anxiety, depression, trauma, stress and even cancer. It is important to note that art therapy includes visual arts, music, movement, and dance. For the purpose of this blog I am talking about the use of visual arts in therapy.
It is my belief that what causes us most difficulty in life is not that of which we are conscious but that which is hidden below the surface of our mind. Those processes which frequently exists as unconscious thoughts and images which are not within our awareness. It is this unconscious material which seems to drive our behavior and have a powerful effect on our sense of self, ability to achieve our goals, and what people might often refer to as self-esteem.
It is likely that our behavior is a reflection of the way we feel about ourselves as well as what we believe we can accomplish. Most of us are just trying to be happy and find some level of fulfillment in life. It is typically our intention to treat others in a positive manner and with respect. Our conscious intention is to behave in an intelligent dignified manner and to treat others and ourselves in a healthy way. We likely have goals related to eating healthy, exercising regularly, listening to family members in a caring manner, and reducing defensiveness and emotional reactivity. Unfortunately despite our positive intentions we frequently over-eat, make poor choices regarding our diets, avoid proper exercise, become emotionally reactive with our families, and are too often disappointed with the manner with which we treat others and ourselves.
The use of art in a therapeutic setting can help individuals learn more about their own unconscious motivation. It can help individuals more easily express themselves, cope with internal conflicts, and find a positive resolution to many of their concerns. Recently I heard Art Therapy referred to as the "science of happiness" . More and more I am beginning to believe that this may be true.
In summary the use of art in a therapeutic environment can help us:
- Become more mindful.
- Become aware of and resolve internal conflict.
- Reduce conflict with others.
- Help us achieve personal goals and be more successful
- Promote relaxation and reduce stress
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Feel better about ourselves.
- Feel more comfortable with our emotions.
- Be happier people and help us get what we want in a positive manner.