As shared by art therapy administrators. What is art therapy? Why do some adults encourage children to do art but shy away from it themselves? What are the benefits of art making? In collaboration with the Co., The Red Pencil (Singapore) and art therapist Kelly Reedy tell us more.
What are some therapeutic benefits of art-making?
There have been numerous studies about the psychological and cognitive benefits of art to relieve stress, aid communication, and help arrest cognitive decline (Harvard Health Publishing, 2017).
As evidence that art-making can alleviate stress and anxiety, a 2016 paper in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association performed an experiment where 39 healthy adults were asked to create art in a studio setting with an art therapist and have their cortisol levels measured thereafter. Cortisol is a hormone that helps the body respond to stress. Amazingly, testament to the therapeutic benefits of art-making, the cortisol levels of all 39 participants were significantly lowered after 45 minutes.
As for the idea of art-making as an aid or tool for communication, people have used art to interact with others without relying on words throughout history. The countless paintings and engravings that have been discovered in caves date far back to the Ice Age, roughly between 40,000 and 14,000 years ago. Such cave art is successful in depicting the rich histories and cultures of those way before us.
As non-verbal communication, art-making can help us to express our innermost feelings and thoughts by bypassing defense mechanisms that we've built for ourselves. Art therapists are trained to identify these in artworks towards helping the artist better understand themselves and their mental health or even resolving trauma. This is particularly helpful for those who are lacking in language skills or find verbal self-expression difficult.
Image courtesy of The Red Pencil (Singapore)
When words are not enough, art can help.
That is the cause behind The Red Pencil (Singapore). The Red Pencil brings the power of creative arts therapy around the world to children and families who have been through traumatic life circumstances, for which they have no words.
Their programmes help people heal and grow through the arts, by offering an alternative way of expression towards balance, empowerment and resilience.
Why do we sometimes shy away from art?
We encourage children to make art for creative engagement, relaxation and pleasure. However, when it comes to adults, many of us are hesitant to pick up a paintbrush or to put pencil to sketchbook.
Many people have the misconception that you have to be good at art to benefit from art therapy. Art therapist Kelly Reedy debunks this myth for us.
“They may have bad memories of being told they had no talent, perhaps as a child. This of course puts them off of making art when they are older. In the end, many people who have this fear find that it quickly disappears as an art therapist guides them in the process of artmaking, rather than being worried about the product.
To add on to this, the 2016 paper we explored earlier in this journal also showed that, whether the participants identify as experienced artists or not, there were no differences in health outcomes between them. In other words, the therapeutic benefits of art do not discriminate—no matter what your skill level is, you'll be able to experience all the positive things that come with making art.
So how does art therapy work?
As art therapist Kelly Reedy also posits, art therapy serves to inspire and guide the innate healing ability that arises in individuals when using their hands, voices, and bodies to express their innermost feelings, especially during times of emotional or physical distress.
Art therapy is practised in a wide variety of settings and uses a range of materials and creative processes such as drawing, painting, clay work, crafts, found objects and journalling.
By engaging in the creative process within a therapeutic relationship, individuals can regain control over an uncontrollable situation, while learning to express themselves and making meanings of their life experiences.
Art helps us to recentre ourselves.
With an art therapist’s guidance and insight, we can use art to better understand the self and perhaps others. This is more important than ever in these pandemic times, for us to check on how we, and those we care about, are coping.
Interested to try art therapy?
At the Co., we have programmes for both individuals and groups (so you can bring a family member or friend)!
In collaboration with The Red Pencil, we are happy to be offering art therapy programmes that run the course of 4 sessions! Check out all programmes here, and our ReBound Art Therapy Project in collaboration with The Red Pencil (Singapore) here!