Art therapy has been shown to help patients with dementia increase their social engagement, reduce the pain and depression of cancer patients, increase the self-esteem of teenage girls, fight depression in incarcerated men and, improve the moods of moody piñatas everywhere.
I started doing quite a bit of self-directed art therapy after my cat, Smurf, died. There was a healthy amount of crying, but after my tears dried I wanted something more active and empowering. Sometimes words are so inadequate. Also a piece of paper never gets tired of listening.
Here are some of my favorite art therapy benefits:
- The process of making art can be calming and relaxing. Focusing on one thing has a meditative effect that allows you to explore your issue from fresh angles and with new tools (like finger paints or glitter).
- You end up with a tangible artifact to memorialize what you’re going through.
- The creative process can allow you to access emotions that you may not be able to tap into otherwise. The physical component (using your body to create) is especially helpful for getting at those hard-to-reach feelings.
- Art therapy can be done alone or with others, depending on your preference. My favorite style is “parallel play,” which entails working on different projects near other people.
- Art therapy can help you discover and better understand parts of yourself. Like the part of you that can't believe how attached you got to that furry little nugget.
Perhaps Georgia O’Keeffe said it best, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way ... things I had no words for.”
So if you’re going through something hard and talking hasn't helped, maybe you should consider collaging, painting, drawing, or sculpting it out instead.
Now where did I put that glue gun?