The Art of Recovery

By, Damilola Paula Ojo.

Most people hear the word art and the first thing that comes to mind is; Color and then artists, drawings, paintbrushes, paintings, museums etc. Art has however found its way of including itself in every sphere of life starting from nature, music, technology, house decoration and even health which we would be focusing on in the following paragraphs.

Art is said to pose therapeutic benefits which can be seen in its ability to either stir up positive or negative emotions by observing or participating in its creation, appreciation or criticism. The definition of art is an imitation of reality has started fizzling out and it has taken a new definition of being an “expression” of internal feelings manifested in reality. That is an outer manifestation of an inner state, so we have the ability to draw, paint, sing or sculpt our feelings.

When people are said to be expressing feelings, what specifically are they doing? In a perfectly ordinary sense, expressing is “letting go” or “letting off steam”: individuals may express their anger by throwing things or by cursing or by striking the persons who have angered them. Art however presents a more productive approach as a coping mechanism in dealing with anger management.

This explains why people with similar health issues/ abuse in their focus group meetings knit wools, therapy clients are made to paint or draw their mental states and progress achieved, sad songs have the ability to put one in a sad or sentimental mood, the list is endless.

Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. The goal of this form of recovery is to give you a way to express yourself beyond words. The most common types of art therapy include; dance therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, expressive therapy and writing therapy.

The techniques used include things like; colouring, sculpting, doodling, finger painting, photography etc. As clients create art, they may analyze what they have made and how it makes them feel. Through exploring their art, people can look for themes and conflicts that may be affecting their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Some conditions that art therapy may be used to treat include:

  • Ageing-related issues
  • Anxiety and anger
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional difficulties
  • Family or relationship problems
  • Medical conditions
  • Psychological symptoms associated with other medical issues
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Stress
  • Substance use disorder

However, these are some benefits from studies;

  • In studies of adults who experienced trauma, art therapy was found to significantly reduce trauma symptoms and decrease levels of depression.
  • One review of the effectiveness of art therapy found that this technique helped patients undergoing medical treatment for cancer improve their quality of life and alleviated a variety of psychological symptoms.
  • One study found that art therapy reduced depression and increased self-esteem in older adults living in nursing homes.

The good news is that you do not need to be artistic to start art therapy, all you need to do is just start! Be open and give yourself to the world of expression in your journey to purging negative and imbibing positive emotions.