My Job Rocks Episode

Learn about Art Therapy as Grace Chiu is interviewed by My Job Rocks host Kafaye Clarke and Maximus Fluffisness. Art Therapy can help you determine your career aspirations, no matter what stage of life you are at.

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Art Therapy as a Mind-Body Modality

The Healing Power of Art by Grace Chiu

This history of human civilization bears witness to the human impulse to create art. An innate creative need led the earliest ancient people to express themselves intuitively in cave paintings, giving meaning to their surroundings and communicating meaning with others. Within community and globally, art is a way to express and share ideas about the human experience.


Art is an important and vital expression of the human condition. Recently, we have recognized the desire to connect to our primal need to express our creativity. The popularity of adult colouring books speaks to our condition as creative creatures. We now know  that participating in creative activities such as music, sculpting, painting, writing and making visual images on paper--or the use of any type of art medium--can produce remarkable physical and emotional benefits to both the creator and the viewer of the artwork. 


Mind-Body Medicine


The term "mind-body medicine" is used to describe an approach  that sees the mind (our thoughts and emotions) as having a central impact on the health of the body. This, however, is not a new idea--formal mind-body techniques, such as meditation and yoga, have been practices for thousands of years. For over two decades, Art Therapy has been recognized as an effective mind-body intervention. While until now, it has mainly been used as a form of psychotherapy, studies have shown that art making complements other treatments and assists individuals in coping with many physical and psychological symptoms, including stress (this is also known as Medical Art Therapy). As new data and research continues to emerge in the fields of neuropsychology and the mind-body paradigms, we will learn more about why images and art making are key to improving health and well-being.


How Does Art Therapy Help?


Art Therapy, a form of expressive therapy, has been used in many different settings, including children's hospitals, drug rehabilitation centres, veterans' hospitals, prisons, oncology hospitals, mental health agencies, eating-disorder clinics, and senior long-term residential care facilities. Often, the presenting emotional and physical problems prevent individuals from being able to express their feelings verbally. Self-expression through artistic media offers a way to bridge what feels like the inexpressible, acting as a balance to verbal expression. The verbal expression finds wholeness and complements the created image, aiding the individual in working through personal thoughts, perceptions and attitudes that may hinder communication. The Art Therapist asks open-ended questions to help the individual process and reflect on the created image, and t his facilitates making the connections between the individual's inner and outer worlds. The gaining of this self-knowledge is empowering and allows the individual to move forward in the healing journey. 


Research of spilt-brain functioning informs us that verbal communication is only one way to express our deeper feelings and thoughts. Traditionally, Art Therapy has been regarded as more strongly related to the nonverbal artistic right-brain functions than to the left-brain functions of analysis and logic. Now, in fact, researchers have demonstrated that both hemispheres of the brain are required for art expression. Spilt-brain research also shows us that a balance of right and left cognitive functions of the brain are necessary for optimal well-being. In addition to its ability to engage the creative, right hemisphere of the brain, Art Therapy also engages the left-brain functions (language). Integrating creative prompts to assist with writing activities such as poetry or narrative story telling, it enables a response to the artwork or the exploration of limited thoughts or feelings. The process of analyzing and reflecting on one's artwork helps develop problem solving skills as one develops newly found insights in a process of reflection and reframing. Creative writing complements the art making, offering an additional opportunity to develop new perspectives. It also offers a way to build resilience through the healing power of words. 


Who Benefits from Art Therapy?


The powerful healing tool of art making can be used by anyone to create positive changes and activate healing at a deeper core level. And anyone can be benefited by it--even those without any artistic experience. In guided Art Therapy practice, feelings of depression, fear, guilt, grief, and worry, when expressed as an image, can release these negative thoughts and feelings from the unconscious mind.


Guided Art Therapy can involve the creative of an image by using suggestions or can entail creating spontaneous artwork (draw what comes to mind), in order to release suppressed feelings. Working with a professionally trained Art Therapist can complement other therapies and augment healing while creating an awareness of the self. Talk therapy is the traditional method of exchange in counselling and therapy and it stands as a very effective approach. Art Therapy represents another approach to healing and well-being that can be a powerful resource for many individuals. Practitioners in expressive therapies, such as Art Therapy, recognize that people have different expressive styles--one may be more visual, more musical, more tactile or expressive in movement. Art Therapy can incorporate these various capacities when working with individuals, enhancing each person's unique abilities to communicate authentically. The act of creative expression through art making supports individuals with emotional distress or physical illness and the assistance of an Art Therapist creates a safe environment to explore sometimes difficult emotions, facilitating personal growth, healing and well-being. 


References:

Art and Healing: Using Expressive Art to Heal Your Body, Mind, and Spirit by Barbara Ganim

Handbook of Art Therapy Edited by Cathy Malchiodi

Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being by Brian Luke Seaward

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"The powerful healing tool of art making can be used by anyone to create positive changes and activate healing at a deep core level. And anyone can be benefited by it--even those without any artistic experience."

CONTACT US

Partner Websites

Yuri's Village Naturopathic Clinic

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Yuri's Village is a warm community and a clinic, offering Naturopathic Medicine and a variety of holistic therapies in the Danforth area of Toronto.

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LucSculpture School and Studios

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LucSculpture's 3 key philosophies:

Through creativity, we help individual's personal growth and wellness. Through creativity, we appreciate differences that each individual brings. Through creativity, we appreciate the mother earth and that we are all one.

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Yvonne Rose, Registered Life Coach

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My philosophy is rooted in the opinion that how we experience our world stems directly from what we focus on and our limiting beliefs.

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Canadian Art Therapy Association

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The Canadian Art Therapy Association is the voice of art  therapy in Canada. Bringing together art therapist to raise standards and advance art therapy practices.

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American Art Therapy Association

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The mission of the American Art Therapy Association is to advocate for expansion of access to professional art therapists and lead the nation in the advancement of art therapy as a regulated mental health and human services profession. 

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Art Therapy in Action: Videos

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Exploring the unique power of art therapy to help people improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change. Videos provided by the American Art Therapy Association.

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