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The Power of Art Therapy

Aristotle identified the elements of circumstances in the WH questions. The essential WH questions for Aristotle were, Why and What.

If we understand what we want and why we want it, we can create or change our circumstances, making us therefore, the element of our circumstance; the element is an essential or characteristic part of something abstract. The abstract in art therapy is what is going to help identify who you really are, because it is in the subconscious that the truth lies; processing that, leads to understanding your why. Simon Sinek explains the concept of WHY in his book ‘Start with Why – How great leaders inspire everyone to take action.

How I see it is to start with Why we need to start with ourselves. Art Therapy is a tool that helps us explore and connect, it helps tap into aspects of the self and the psyche that aren’t always accessible because it focuses on the use of non-verbal communication and creative processes as the medium for free expression. It means that when our mind and hands are engrossed in a creative activity, it alters our state of mind to a more subconscious level, giving us the ability to communicate what we are feeling. Art therapy allows us to hear ourselves admit to truths we never knew, because that awareness, your hidden thoughts, are revealed while you discuss your drawing with the therapist. Once we are aware of our subconscious thoughts, we can make them ours and decide what to do with them and before you know it, you’ve just become and empowered leader!

Art therapy gives clarity into the WHY because we see it with creative eyes; we are feeling and imagining while we talk to the therapist. Creativity and imagination are what makes art therapy so effective for healing and empowerment. Trying to express what you’ve drawn in your abstract piece is an emotionally exhausting experience, but a necessary and interesting one to understand our biases and who we really are. When we describe how the lines make us feel and why we chose that colour we discover why we do what we do. The flowy process makes you go deeper into the subconscious where a lot of truths and discoveries are.

Art, the tool for free expression, is abstract and fluid; it isn’t rigid and scientific, but because of its flowy nature, scientific proof for some remains ambiguous despite evidence shows that it is very successful in treating PTSD, anxiety, and other mental disorders. Andrea Gilroy wrote about art therapy around the world being under pressure to become more evidence based.

With technology, neuroscience, pharmacology, and psychology becoming more sophisticated, we will no doubt start to see more digital technology in art therapy. Having more data to collect gives it more credibility and visibility, leaving no doubt that it does work. However, while we continue in the path of ‘all you see is all there is, we are the best evidence that art therapy really works—that’s because pictures nudge us more than words. Months after your art therapy sessions, every time you look at your pictures, they will nudge you. You understand the picture now and why you drew it. Art therapy enhances mental health and helps you rewire your brain and create new neural pathways each time you practice it. You’re creating new connections between neurons, and we don’t think the same after that happens.

Whether the challenges in our life are relationship or career related, or if there is a health crisis or death in the family, we need to create diverse ways of dealing with these events, ones that create new and different responses and results. The artwork you produce, is the real you speaking. The therapist does not interpret your drawings or artwork, but only guides you with inquisitive and challenging questions that only you know the answer to. The therapist focuses on your artwork and decides what generic questions to ask based on your pictures; your role is to express what she sees in the picture. The therapist does not express her opinion, nor does she ask questions that may influence the client’s answers. It is the client that makes sense of why she drew the picture, she will articulate it to the therapist and then together they talk about their discoveries. It is this process that allows you to create different responses and results.

I’ve experimented art therapy on myself and found that it shifted my way of thinking a lot. For those of you who have not done any art since school days, then art as therapy, the act of making art without a therapist is therapy on its own. With an art therapist you take it to the next level and that is when you start to unlock the negative thinking and limiting beliefs.

Art therapy, meditative yoga, meditation, and outdoor living in nature help you to find your purpose in life and live in the present. Not dealing with past or future, things become clearer. I encourage you to try out art therapy or combine it with some traditional psychotherapy.

Art therapy can help:

· Children overcome, domestic violence, bullying and low-self esteem

· Children with learning difficulties

· Chronic pain management

· PTSD / childhood trauma / veteran with trauma / general trauma

· Palliative care patients and cancer patients

· Dementia patients

· Find a purpose in life

· Cultivate Self-awareness

· Manage impulsive behaviours

· Release our fears

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