For as long as I can remember, arts and crafts were an absolute favourite childhood pastime of mine. Finger painting, doodling in schoolbooks while being bored out of my mind whilst ‘listening to the teacher’, or making claymation objects and baking them in the oven to play with later. I was only just reminiscing with my partner about the days that we use to watch the television show “art attack” and I told him how I would break out every single one of my toys, creating a “mural” on my floor saying “look! I made art!” only just to leave a massive mess for my poor mom to clean up.
I will make the assumption that for obvious reasons; such as not wanting to look like a fool as we ravage around creating huge messes, we tend to drop these vivacious motivations to make art as we age and tend to forget that we CAN in fact, still be kids at play. Play, keeps our inner spirits alive, it brightens our inner innovations and desire to explore! I firmly believe that art and play are massively underrated forms of therapy, and are often disregarded as children’s games. When in reality, our adult brains are aching to start playing and being creative again.
So what is art therapy? Well I am still in the process of learning about it in its entirety myself. I have mentioned previously that I have studied an undergraduate degree, double majoring in psychology and sociology. Throughout my studies I have also taken a series of visual arts studio courses. Art has always been a passion of mine, as well as learning about mental health. However, art therapy and its positive effects, have only just recently become essential to my way of life and wellbeing. So, instead of telling you a textbook terminology, I would rather explain to you, my readers, what art therapy means to me on a personal level.
More professionally speaking, Art Therapy is typically practiced with a registered Art Therapist and much like traditional therapy, these sessions can be done privately or in a group. Additionally, there are traditional elements to each session such as discussing ones troubles and life events, yet it is typically done so after the client has completed a visual art exercise selected by the therapist. With that being said, there are many different exercises for people to use and how one approach works for one individual will likely vary completely to the next. I will give a personal experience in which I have completed whilst studying art therapy at IKON institute of Sydney Australia.
The exercise began with the professor asking the class to create a tree in whichever way we would like. Nevertheless, unknowing to what the main point of the exercise was, I found myself slightly nervous as the professor called me up to do a mock therapy session. I had created your typical Georgian bay tree from home, standing alone on a small island. My professor began by asking on a very basic surface level, what I saw in my painting. Which I responded with things such as: green, brown, water, & sun. Then she asked again what I saw, but this time she wanted me to explain in more depth; the water is wavy, the browns are warm, there are loose lines and sharp edges etc. Once the professor made me aware of all of my paintings attributes, we went into detail of why I think it was that I created the tree using these characteristics. There was never any pressure to see anything, in fact it was okay to also see nothing at all. As the therapy session went on, I felt my warm cheeks go wet as I had begun to cry in the middle of my class. I was uncovering information about the trauma surrounding the loss of my mom, as well as the grief. I knew that I wanted to be an art therapist, but in that moment I truly learnt the why. I had never felt any form of therapy to be so powerful. I witnessed first hand, how my art, conscious, and subconscious mind unfolded and worked together in a way that spoke to me as a story of truth, the truth of underlying issues that were still consuming my brain. The truth is, I was so excited to be in Australia, that I had failed to remember to take care of my mental health while I was here. This art therapy session reminded me that I still needed to take care of my grief and PTSD, even if I was beginning to heal in Australia. Ultimately, I was reminded that I needed to make sure that I wasn’t just pushing my troubles under a rug, only for it all to later come busting out down the road, causing me even more pain and instability.
And so, sure, on a more technical level, Art Therapy can be explained as a form of connecting your conscious with your subconscious, by the means of creating art and analyzing the truth behind the image along side a trained professional. However, this aspect of art therapy is only the first out of the two ways that I like to look at it. The second, you must be willing to create on your own time. Think of it as homework if you will, or don’t. I definitely do not, as I have always looked at creating art like my time to be a kid at play. Therapy can be expensive and realistically we don’t all have the finances to pay for professional mental health care (another frustrating topic I would love to discuss later), however there is something that I have learnt and want to share with all of you, which is to START A VISUAL DIARY!
Seems simple yes, but that is the way it should be. A kid at play is not thinking about complexity, they are thinking about how they can create something that is awesome. My advice, go grab any journal (lined, blank, brown etc.) and fill it up with anything you like! The possibilities are endless, literally infinite! Don’t even begin thinking to yourself of whether or not you are “good” at art. You simply don’t need to be good at it to reap the benefits of healing creation! Or maybe you’re thinking, I don’t really struggle mentally, well you also don’t have to be in a bad place to create! Its all about setting aside a few minutes for yourself to be a kid again. Unwind, grab a coffee, grab a snack and just doodle! Struggling to think of ideas? Well, you can head over to my art gallery on this website and take a browse on some of the things that I have journaled. Or for even more ideas, head over to my Pinterest (Link Below).
Remember! Art is not suppose to intimidate you, its suppose to awaken you! So be a little selfish, go get a journal and enjoy some well deserved self-care YOU time! Go on, lets start making life Taysty 🙂