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Art Psychotherapy - What Is It?
Art Psychotherapy - Who Is It For?
Art Psychotherapy - How Does It Work?
Art Psychotherapy - When Can It Be Advantageous
Art Psychotherapy - What Is It?

What Is It?

Art Therapy (primarily developed in group settings) and Art Psychotherapy (more in the context of individual therapy) invite the patient to express themselves on important themes using various artistic resources and materials according to their therapeutic potential.

Before a child speaks, they sing. Before they write, they draw. As soon as they can stand, they dance. Art is essential to human expression.

- Phylicia Rashad

After the artistic creation, the patient is invited to share what they created, the feelings that emerged before, during, and after the creation, and to associate aspects of the creation with events, memories, relational patterns, or life events. They may also connect old feelings, behavioral patterns, and many other references. Art makes the patient's internal world visible and accessible, which is normally invisible in therapy.

In addition to the art being relaxing and soothing for some people, it does much more. It can intensify unpleasant emotions already present in some moments (to be better worked on later) and allows for accelerated processes of expression and emotional regulation. In other moments, it enables non-obvious associations between content and events because it is a direct pathway to the unconscious, bringing content into consciousness that needs to be understood, perceived, and transformed.

The use of imagination, symbolism, and metaphors enriches the process and helps overcome natural resistance to talking about painful events or emotions. This is why Art Therapy/Psychotherapy is so effective for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, for example.

Patients are often invited to experience and rehearse movements they need to make in their lives through artistic creations, providing a sense of safety and confidence to do so in real-life situations.

This type of therapy should be conducted by qualified psychotherapists who have knowledge of the potential (symbolic, communicative, creative, and realization) and limitations of various artistic mediums, such as:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Modeling
  • Sculpture
  • Collage
  • Drama and Dramatic Games
  • Puppets
  • Sandplay
  • Body Expression
  • Music
  • Singing
  • Psycho-corporal Techniques
  • Poetry
  • Free Creative Writing
  • Stories, among others
Art Psychotherapy - Who Is It For?

Who Is It For?

Art Psychotherapy is recommended for all age groups and for all types of psychological disorders or emotional challenges that people may be experiencing.

We start from the point that everyone has their internal musicality, the ability to move, dance, draw and paint, model and shape, but often they are led to believe that they cannot use their creative abilities because what they create is 'not perfect.' The fact that many of these activities are associated with the school environment by some people can bring memories of frustration and fear of failure associated with personal difficulties.

Art in therapy is not used for its aesthetic value, but for its expressive, symbolic, emotional, and creative value in the creative process. It provides the potential for change when the patient engages with what they have just created, the freedom to do whatever they want with the creation in the therapy space, including destroying or transforming it into whatever they want. There is no right or wrong in art psychotherapy, as in any other psychotherapy. There is the freedom to be as one is, to do as one is, to be as one is.

As a result, patients with depressive disorders, anxiety, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, eating disorders, among others, can greatly benefit from art psychotherapy.

Art Psychotherapy - How Does It Work?

How Does It Work?

In the first session, a plan will be developed based on the individual's goals and the difficulties they present. Some evaluation sessions follow in which the person explores various art materials (pastels, oil pastels, colored pencils, felt-tip markers, etc.) and areas such as emotions, thoughts, behaviors, life history, therapeutic goals, and more are addressed.

Everything that exists at this precise moment has been imagined at some point.

- Wayne Dyer

Once again, we emphasize that no artistic background is required to start an art psychotherapy process, as each person's expression is unique, personal, and symbolic.

Art Psychotherapy - When Can It Be Advantageous

When Can It Be Advantageous

  • In situations where a person has difficulty talking about what troubles them (both in terms of communication and awareness of what they feel). Artistic creation allows an initial approach to addressing the topics to be worked on;
  • When the topics to be worked on are linked to early stages of development (e.g., early traumas, early abandonment situations, losses, or other events, especially if they occurred before the acquisition of language). Art Psychotherapy, due to its sensory nature, provides a regressive environment that allows access to and transformation of these experiences;
  • When the situation to be addressed is so traumatic that there is great emotional intensity. Artistic creation allows a connection to what happened without talking about the subject, providing a kind of safe distance to address the issue;
  • This approach is also very useful for rehearsing movements that a person needs to make in their life. Through creation, a space is opened where situations, plots, alternative endings can be rehearsed until they can be implemented in daily life. Art psychotherapy allows rehearsal of situations, plots, alternative endings that can bring clarity and new perspectives on the issues presented;
  • Art Psychotherapy essentially works on creative dynamics in life, creative intelligence to solve life's challenges at every moment. It allows training to look at situations and handle them more creatively, efficiently in pursuing goals, or in managing available resources, for example;
  • Engaging in self-discovery through Art Psychotherapy allows access and enrichment of our symbolic and archetypal wealth, as if gaining access to a new language in relating to oneself and others (through expression through colors, symbols, gestures, materials). This whole process allows for an amplification of freedom of expression, which can be crucial to the process of change and self-discovery.

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