MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Art Therapy for Mental Health
Research has shown that art therapy can be an effective tool for alleviating the suffering associated with PTSD and other psychological conditions, particularly when combined with traditional forms of treatment. Painting, drawing, and other forms of artistic expression, like music therapy, can support a positive outcome for veterans recovering from mental health disorders.
Solara Mental Health in San Diego, offers art therapy as a form of treatment for mental health disorders. For veterans who are struggling with mental health disorders and are open to holistic treatment methods, art therapy is an excellent option to consider.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a complementary healing modality that uses artistic expression to support mental health and well-being. The effectiveness of creative therapy in treating mental health conditions is evident. Participants have an outlet to express their thoughts and feelings through creative expression.
Most forms of psychotherapy revolve around verbal conversations between a therapist and a client. Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that uses various artistic media—e.g., painting, drawing, collage, and sculpture—as the primary mode of expression and communication.
Art therapists are not required to have experience or expertise in the artistic media they employ. The art therapist’s role is not to make an aesthetic judgment of the client’s painting or drawing. Instead, the goal of such a practitioner is to support and empower their clients to heal and transform in a positive direction through the use of artistic materials in a safe and comfortable environment.
The American Art Therapy Association describes the main functions of art therapy to be:
- Improving cognitive and sensorimotor functions
- Fostering self-esteem and self-awareness
- Cultivating emotional resilience
- Promoting insight
- Enhancing social skills
- Reducing and resolving conflicts and distress
- Promoting societal and ecological changes
What Disorders Can Art Therapy Help With?
Art therapy is a non-pharmacological holistic treatment modality which has been proven to have sound clinical effects on mental illness. Creative art allows people to heal the mind, body, and spirit.
The mental health disorders that may be effectively treated with expressive arts therapy include:
- Behavioral disorders
- Low self-esteem
Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy
Several aspects of art therapy make it a helpful adjunct therapy:
* One of the basic principles of art therapy is that people can feel better mentally and emotionally via artistic expression. Art therapy provides emotional relief by encouraging the expression of feelings and concerns.
* Art therapy provides a means of expression beyond written/spoken language. There are some things that can be “said” via images much more easily than with words. Art therapy provides a venue for this kind of communication.
* Art therapy can help people feel more comfortable expressing themselves—sharing their feelings, experiences, and viewpoints—which can improve interpersonal relationships and mental health disorders.
* Art therapy can help clients communicate and resolve traumatic memories, relieve stress, and reduce symptoms of trauma-related conditions.
* Art therapy can enhance a client’s quality of life by providing a creative activity that enhances self-esteem and a sense of self-worth.
* In some cases, art therapy can also be used as a diagnostic tool—to help mental health professionals clarify aspects of a patient’s condition with information different from what they can glean from conventional tests.
* An art therapy program can enhance the client’s intuition and self-awareness and activate new frameworks of understanding and meaning. It can provide depth and richness to the therapeutic process that may not be available in talk therapy alone.
Inner Pictures Become Visible
One of the primary psychodynamic processes of art therapy is how “inner pictures”—scenarios playing out within the client’s conscious and subconscious mind—are made visible via the creative process.
These pictures may reflect memories of trauma. They may be symptomatic of various psychiatric disorders. They may even point to a particular healing modality that would be useful. In any case, they contain a form of information that is unique and uniquely valuable.
Art Therapy for Veterans
Art therapy has been around since the mid-20th century and has its origins in the experience of veterans. When soldiers returned from the battlefields of World War II, many were left with psychological scars. Their condition came to be known as “shell shock.” Today it is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Winter VA Hospital in Topeka, Kansas, was the first VA hospital to offer art therapy to World War II veterans in 1945. As part of their psychiatric treatment, veterans created paintings, drawings, and sculptures to help them process their combat experiences.
Traumatic experiences are often partially repressed and challenging to articulate in words. This is what makes the nonverbal expression of art therapy so valuable. It provides a way of “speaking the unspeakable.” Intense emotions and painful memories—challenging to convey in words—can be more easily expressed in images with the support of a trained art therapist.
For veterans receiving psychiatric care for PTSD and other mental health disorders, art therapy can be a valuable resource as an adjunct to other therapies.
Art therapy can support veterans healing from mental disorders by:
- Reducing anxiety and mood disorders common to military personnel with PTSD
- Reducing behaviors that interfere with emotional and cognitive functioning
- Providing a means to externalize, verbalize, and resolve memories of traumatic events
- Reactivating positive emotions, self-worth, and self-esteem
Art Therapy in San Diego
Art therapy can be utilized as part of treatment plan for mental health disorders. When combined with evidence-based therapies, art therapy can be beneficial part of mental health treatment.
Solara Mental Health—located in San Diego, California—provides residential mental health treatment to veterans struggling with mental health disorders. Art therapy works to help treat people of all ages who are struggling with mental health conditions. If you or a veteran you love is struggling with mental health disorders, reach out to Solara today.