Art making is a universal language, practiced across all generations and cultures. We are all creative beings. From the moment we learn how to hold and move tools on surfaces, our scribbles begin. Between the ages of three to five, we start mastering basic shapes, such as the outline of a full circle. As our development continues, we learn to better differentiate objects in space, and our drawings become more nuanced and complex. The images we create serve as a conduit between subjective and objective reality. It is an attempt at organizing and integrating our inner experience with the outside world. Thus, art making helps us give meaning to our life and tell our stories.
Art therapy is an established mental health profession, combining both the creative process and psychotherapy techniques to help us gain more insight into our lived experience and improve our well-being. A trained art therapists invites clients to use visual arts media, such as drawing, painting, collage, photography, and other creative tools to tap into their inner world. The main goal is to help improve one’s mental, physical, and emotional health by facilitating a safe space for introspection and self-expression. This approach is particularly helpful for people who find it difficult or intimidating to describe their experiences using just words.
The creative experience in art therapy is different from an art class. There is no right or wrong way to use art materials in an art therapy session because the focus is the creative process rather than the final art product. The artwork created during an art therapy session is seen as a representation or reflection of the client’s inner thoughts and feelings. The client communicates thorough lines, colours, and symbols, so the quality of the technique is less important. The client is also the main person in the room who holds the meaning of their artwork and its interpretations. The art therapist serves as a guiding witness to the presented artwork and the receiver of the story emerging from it.
Art therapy has been used in a variety of settings, welcoming people of different ages, gender, cultural backgrounds, and abilities. The best part about being in art therapy is that the image created on paper serves as a temporary safe place for our thoughts and feelings to be placed on, before we are ready to verbally address them. It gives us the opportunity to transform an old narrative and a chance at a more meaningful future.
Key words: art therapy, mental health, well-being, self-expression, cultural
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