By Lacy Taylor, MA, LPC, Mental Health Therapist at Southwest Behavioral Services.
Living with a mental illness can be a lonely and stressful experience. You may find it difficult to think about seeking treatment and sitting across from a stranger while talking about your life, experiences, secrets and struggles. You may also fail to find the right words to express your thoughts and emotions in ways that others can understand. Art therapy can aide you to expressing these complex issues and more.
What is Art Therapy?
Art Therapy – SBSArt therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art making as a mode of communication for expressing thoughts, feelings, wishes, fears and hopes in a way that words cannot always illustrate. Creating art bridges the gap between the conscious mind and the unconscious, while also engaging the body, mind and spirit in a way that verbal expression cannot. Expression through art can enhance your self-esteem and self-awareness, aid communication, help you cope with stress, and improve overall well-being.
In art therapy, the process of making art is more important than the product, so no artistic talent is needed to engage in art therapy and there is no right or wrong way to make art in art therapy. However, art therapy is not appropriate for everyone or you may feel hesitant to use art expression in therapy. In those cases the art therapist honors the wishes and limitations of the patient and will utilize more traditional talk therapy techniques.
Art therapy can be used to help treat a variety of mental or emotional illnesses including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, OCD, psychosis, grief, trauma, and substance use issues. Art therapy is also used in treatment of physical illnesses such as chronic pain or cancer to reduce the emotional suffering patients often experience.
Who are Art Therapists?
Art therapists are master’s level clinicians who have dual training in mental health counseling and art therapy. In most cases they are also a state licensed mental health therapist in addition to an art therapist. They work with children, adolescents, adults, families and groups in many different settings such as:
• Psychiatric facilities
• Rehabilitation centers
• Senior communities
• Veteran’s clinics
• Community clinics
• Hospice care
Art therapists incorporate many different counseling theories and techniques into art therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mind-Body approaches, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, psychoanalytical, and humanistic approaches to name a few.
Whether you want to try art therapy, or are just looking for a counselor to talk to, art therapists are equipped with the knowledge and tools to help you.
For more information or to make an appointment call Southwest Behavioral Services at (608) 348-3656. If you’re having suicidal thoughts or tendencies call the 24-hour mental health crisis line for Grant & Iowa Counties at (800) 362-5717 or Lafayette County at (888) 552-6642.