Arts and crafts are byproducts of the natural desire to express emotion creatively. This creative expression has helped unite society under a shared appreciation and admiration for the beauty and the creative process.
A 2018 review of studies by Trusted Source found that arts and crafts can bolster mood, improve self-confidence, reduce stress overall, and be a natural anti-depressant. Chronic stress is a gateway to many illnesses and can make you angry, anxious, or irritated.
Arts and crafts activities serve as an outlet to release these challenging emotions in a personal and expressive manner. In addition, the importance of social connectedness continues to be demonstrated as a key component of mental health. For example, a 2017 study found that engaging more with society can play a crucial role in mental health and well-being.
Adults typically have complex, ambivalent feelings about art and art making; common responses range from dismissal and derision to awe and sometimes shame about their lack of artistic skills. Young children, on the other hand, typically draw and sing and dance without worrying about their abilities. Unfortunately, that freedom and joy are often lost as we grow and begin to evaluate the quality of our art self-consciously. Too often, we become viewers of others’ art rather than being active creators, and we lose the many benefits of creative self-expression. Art therapists guide people in connecting or reconnecting with the creative practices that support mental health and help people grapple with life challenges and uncertainties. The United States has more than 6,000 credentialed art therapists, and the profession is growing in all parts of the world.
Research shows that trauma is stored in the brain as a sensory experience, with fragments of images and sensations scattered throughout, leaving individuals more prone to frequent and overwhelming triggers. While grief alone may not be perceived as trauma by all survivors, many will still struggle with increased fear and instability as one’s attachments and routine are disrupted at best – and, at worst, completely shattered. This added anxiety and loss of security adds a layer of distress to grief that, with or without traumatic features, can complicate even the most well-supported and healthy individuals. A sensory practice such as art therapy can thus provide a vessel for externalizing traumatic memories and releasing tensions, helping to produce a more coherent, collective narrative of the traumatic experience. The kinesthetic experience of art-making can also enhance a relaxation response and help increase the ability to tolerate stressors. The resulting artwork can serve as a symbolic representation and container of the effects of traumatic stress, thus aiding the person in integrating the experience and feelings into one’s life story.
Art therapy encourages creativity and supports the individual to connect with inner strengths in developing alternative responses to stressors and problems. Art-making can be a pleasurable experience that supports individuals in addressing emotional numbing resulting from trauma or overwhelming, unrelenting feelings of pain. Reconnecting with calming, positive emotions and finding a means to release the heavy burden of grief or re-experiencing traumatic memories can be found in these targeted, specialized techniques.
People do not need to have artistic ability or special talent to participate in art therapy, and people of all ages, including children, teens, and adults, can benefit from it. Some research suggests that just the presence of art can play a part in boosting mental health.3
A 2017 study found that art displayed in hospital settings contributed to an environment where patients felt safe. It also played a role in improving socialization and maintaining an identity outside of the hospital.15
People often wonder how an art therapy session differs from an art class. Where an art class is focused on teaching techniques or creating a specific finished product, art therapy is more about letting clients focus on their inner experiences.
People can focus on their perceptions, imagination, and feelings in creating art. Therefore, clients are encouraged to create art that expresses their inner world more than something that expresses the outer world.
Art therapy isn’t for everyone. While high levels of creativity or artistic ability aren’t necessary for art therapy to be successful, many adults who believe they are not creative or artistic might be resistant or skeptical of the process.
In addition, art therapy has not been effective for all mental health conditions. For example, one meta-analysis found that art therapy is not effective in reducing positive or negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
Art therapy can be used as a complement to traditional mental health treatment. The aim is to manage behaviors, process feelings, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase self-esteem.
Self-discovery: Creating art can help you acknowledge and recognize feelings that have been lurking in your subconscious.
Self-esteem: The process will give you a feeling of self-accomplishment which can be very valuable to improve your self-appreciation and confidence.
Emotional release: The greatest benefit of art therapy is giving you a healthy outlet for expressing and letting go all your feelings and fears. Complex emotions such as sadness or anger sometimes cannot be expressed with words. When you are unable to express yourself, but you desire emotional release, making art may help you to do it.
Stress relief: Fighting anxiety, depression or emotional trauma can be very stressful for you both mentally and physically. Creating art can be used to relieve stress and relax your mind and body.
Working with a licensed therapist has its advantages because a professional can tailor each activity to your own needs. If the activities are done in a group, they are excellent for building healthy connections with other people, which may be very helpful if you are fighting depression. The most important thing is that you should try art therapy only if you want it. Expressing yourself through art can be self-revealing and sometimes equally painful as talking. So, if you still don’t feel ready to try it, that is okay.
Therapy can be costly, but you can see if you qualify for reduced rates and more information to seek the help you need.
Mental health issues affects roungly 20% of Americans annuall, it can be serious and debilitaing. While there are some methods you can practice to help with your mood. You can contact your healthcare provider or someone at your local community health clinic for help.
Self care tips you can do at home or at a lower cost. If you are feeling too overwhelmed, please check out the resources information below to find low cost therapy or counselling near you.