What is it?
Expressing yourself through art, whether you are considered talented or not, can allow deep and often buried feelings and emotions to come to the surface. The therapeutic potential of this form of therapy can come about through the expression itself, as unresolved issues are brought forth as well as through interpreting the symbols with the support of an experienced art therapist.
Rudolf Steiner advocated the healing potential of art as he developed anthroposophy in the 19th Century and both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung recognised, in the early 20th Century, how the subconscious state could be reflected in visual images. Psychoanalysts Melanie Klein and Anna Freud paid particular attention to the benefits of creative expression in childhood. It became more widely acknowledged as a therapeutic tool after World War 2, when many of the veterans were helped to rehabilitate and recover from their trauma.
Many individuals are referred initially by their Doctor and arrange one to one sessions. With a trained therapist this creates a safe space to explore the expression of feelings which may be far too sensitive to voice, or may be too repressed to consciously remember. A free flow of creative expression, using different media such as paint, collage or sculpture, can by pass any mental inhibition and with expert questions from the therapist guide the patient to their own interpretation.
This form of therapy is also often used in hospitals, prisons, mental health centres, education centres and sometimes in hospices and alternative treatment centres. In an environment where people may be dying of cancer, the therapy has been documented as being valuable in dealing with both physical and mental pain and well as coming to terms with the dying process. In establishments such as prisons the therapy may be conducted in a group setting.