–Triveni Goswami Vernal
(Registered Special Educator A64010)
ART THERAPY: AN INTRODUCTION
Art Therapy is a therapeutic approach, facilitated by a trained Art Therapist involving creative processes to help the client, express their unexpressed thoughts, emotions and perceptions, through various projective techniques, to not only help them heal but also work towards their emotional, mental and physical well-being.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, Art Therapy has been defined 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” (About Art Therapy. Accessed from the website https://arttherapy.org/about-art-therapy/ on July 19, 2021).
In Art Therapy, the client -therapist relationship is situated within a confidential space, where every effort is made by the therapist to honour the sentiments shared by the client and to ensure that no information is leaked outside that space. The Process, rather than the product, is the focus of Art Therapy. The goal of the therapeutic process is the self-expression of the client and the art piece that is created, is considered to be a reflection of the client’s thoughts and perceptions.
CAREGIVING, ART THERAPY AND SELF CARE:
Being a caregiver, can be quite exhausting. Caregiving is not only limited to being physically present with the child or being around the child, but also be “mentally and emotionally present” at all times for the child’s needs. And doing that, day in and day out, can be emotionally and physically draining for the caregiver. One must, therefore actively take out time, during the day for oneself.
In 2009, a study in The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that the “levels of chronic stress experienced by the mothers were akin to those of combat soldiers (cited in https://archive.nytimes.com/parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/going-to-battle-against-autism/).
Art Therapy can help an individual get in touch with their inner selves, improve self-awareness and help them gain insight into their thoughts and feelings, that they might not be otherwise aware of.
ART THERAPY ACTIVITIES:
Maintain a Journal: To begin with your self-care journey, you can keep a dedicated journal to jot down your innermost thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes and aspirations. You can write every day/once a week, whatever time frame suits you, about something that you like …a quotation, or a poem, or a phrase that you really liked, or about something that is bothering you, or making you stressful. You can doodle or draw or collage bits of paper/magazine sheets to create your own art, to illustrate the various emotions you are experiencing.
Sharing some activities from the book Essential Art Therapy Exercises: Effective Techniques to Manage Anxiety, Depression and PTSD, Leah Guzman, ATR-BC, 2020 –
1) Feeling Identification: Take a blank, relatively thick piece of paper and take any colouring medium (pastels, crayons, colour pencils, paints etc). Choose a colour that you feel reflects what you are presently feeling. Draw a circle with that colour. Inside that circle, use lines and shapes to draw an image or images to identify how you are feeling at present.
2) Scribble Into a Drawing: Take a blank, relatively thick piece of paper and take coloured pencils or crayons. Close your eyes and scribble a line on the paper. Look at it from various angles and then create an image out of your scribble using the coloured pencils/crayons.
3) Expressive Free Flow: Take a large sheet of paper, hang it on the wall and take sketch pens/markers. Stand and take any colour sketch pen/marker and draw a large circle on the paper and continue to create as many large circles as you can, with different colours. Use alternate arms to draw the circles. This exercise helps to loosen up and become more expressive.
4) Gratitude Check-In: Take your journal and write 5 things that happened today for which you are grateful. This activity can be done every day, either when you wake up or before you go to bed.
5) Draw a Feeling Wheel: Draw a circle. You can take the help of a circular object like the lid of a jar/ bowl, if needed. Divide the circle into 8 triangles (like in a pizza). On the top of each triangle, write a feeling. So, the circle will have eight different emotions. Choose the closest colour you may feel reflects that emotion. And colour the triangle, leaving the space, where you have written about it. Then ask yourself the following questions:
Which feelings did you write down first?
Which feelings are you currently experiencing?
Did you colour any two emotions in the same colour? If yes, which ones? And what does it mean to you?
On your Feeling Wheel, are there more positive emotions/negative emotions?
6) Mindful Sketch: Take a drawing pencil and a sheet of relatively thick paper. Choose an object near you and sketch out its shape. You can add as many details as you like. This activity can help improve mindfulness and focus.
Other art therapy activities that an individual can do:
1) Practice drawings that are based on the Principle of Symmetry. Such activities are therapeutic as they work on stabilizing Mind and Body.
2) Create a Collage from various found materials (magazine, newspaper cut outs, old artworks) to create a new piece about your hopes and aspirations.
3) Working with Clay Dough: Create new shapes, dismantle them and create something anew.
4) Draw yourself as a Plant or an Animal and write down why you chose that particular one and how it makes you feel.
5) Play some music in the background. Imagine you are walking in the forest and try to transfer the feelings you experience as you imagine walking in that forest and the visual imagery, on the paper. The drawing doesn’t have to be perfect. It should just capture the essence of how you feel.
Thus, we see that the exercises in art therapy are a reflection of an individual’s thoughts and perceptions. Art Therapy forms a bridge to connect with one’s deep thoughts, desires and anxieties, that one might not be otherwise aware of. Art Therapy helps in creating a mindful and more aware individual. One can consult a trained Art Therapist to work through one’s inner challenges to arrive at a more balanced state of mind.
**The author has a Diploma in Art Therapy.
Author Triveni Goswami Vernal
Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.
Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal