Art therapy offers a way to explore and express difficult thoughts and feelings.
Art therapy is a form of emotional support that can be helpful to people who are struggling with difficult and challenging situations. It involves using visual art materials with a trained art therapist to create pictures or objects that have personal meanings. It may help release bottled up emotions, and give new understanding and perspectives.
Art therapy is not about creating a fantastic piece of art. You don’t need to be able to draw or paint.
Art therapy is used by people with a variety of problems including:
- chronic or life limiting illnesses, including cancer
- mental health problems, including depression and addiction
- relationship problems
- eating disorders
- learning disabilities
How art therapy might help
For people living with cancer, art therapy offers a way of communicating and exploring confused or difficult thoughts and feelings. It can encourage positive feelings too, as people enjoy the control and expressive qualities of making art. It is supportive to share experiences with a trained art therapist and connect with other people who are in similar situations.
Art therapy may be very helpful for people who feel uncomfortable with touch or talk therapies. And it can be helpful in supporting families and friends affected by cancer.
Although the scientific evidence for art therapy is still limited, many health professionals think it may:
- encourage you to express your emotions and help improve your relationships with other people
- help you adjust to a changing body image
- encourage you to be creative and self-confident
- help take your mind off pain or discomfort
- help to control anxiety, depression and low self esteem
What art therapy involves
You don’t need experience to take part in, or benefit from, art therapy.
Art therapy can take many forms, including:
- using tools such as iPads, smartphones and cameras
On your first visit, your therapist will ask you questions to better understand your needs and expectations. They will design a plan to suit you. This will include how often you will meet, how long each session will be and the purpose of each.
You can have art therapy alone with a therapist or in a group. They can last up to 60 minutes or longer depending on this. Therapy sessions can take place regularly for a fixed number of weeks or months.
Your therapist won’t teach you to draw or paint. They will encourage you to use art to explore your feelings, develop your own confidence and self-awareness. This could improve your wellbeing and quality of life.
Your relationship with the art therapist is important. They are responsible for creating a safe environment for you to work in. This means you can express strong emotions and share personal concerns.
Therapy might bring up some powerful, and at times, uncomfortable feelings. But if you do this in a safe environment with the support of a trained therapist it is usually a positive process.
Ref: Cancer Research UK