What is Art Therapy?
Art Therapy strives to use art, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore feelings, foster self-awareness, manage behaviors, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.
The American Art Therapy Association defines Art Therapy as:
“An integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship……..Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem, and self-awareness cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.”
Why Do We Use Art Therapy?
Art Therapy has been shown to stimulate the brain by engaging the senses, stirring memories, and sometimes by sparking spontaneous language of someone who is struggling with language and word finding. The act of creating stimulates the brain by requiring the resident to plan, remember, create patterns, choose art media, and use motor skills. Art Therapy draws on parts of the brain that are not dominated by language which allows the resident an opportunity to engage in creative outlets and feel a sense of accomplishment as well as increased self-esteem. While engaging in art-making, residents are choosing color, line, and design as well as the media they wish to use. This helps give a sense of control, accomplishment, mastery, and self-esteem.
For our Residents who suffer from any form of Dementia, word-finding and difficulties with expressive language are often a frustrating part of life. Art Therapy can ease their frustration by offering another way to process thoughts and feelings as well as connect and communicate with peers, it also offers residents a sense of control and mastery.
Art Therapy is especially beneficial for residents suffering from anxiety. Engaging in an Art Therapy experiential can help diffuse stress (and a stressful situation) and redirect anxiety into an activity that can order feelings, thoughts and assist in regulating the nervous system. This is accomplished when residents make decisions (on how/what to create), the act of creatively expressing thoughts and feelings, and gives order to thoughts and emotions.
Residents at Hancock Hall and Filosa take part in Art Therapy experientials such as collage, painting, print-making, and even Marionette Puppet making. These experientials are designed to promote self-awareness, relieve stress, anxiety, and confusion (through developing a sense of empowerment), to improve/sustain motor skills, improve cognitive skills, increase the ability to cope with transitions, facilitate communication, and to increase self-esteem.
“Through integrative methods, art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone. Kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic opportunities invite alternative modes of receptive and expressive communication, which can circumvent the limitations of language. Visual and symbolic expression gives voice to experience, and empowers individual, communal, and societal transformation”. The American Art Therapy Association.