Using the Creative Arts in Therapy
- Miles Goldstein
- February 1, 2019
According to one author, “art can be used to help clients communicate, overcome stress, and explore different aspects of their own personalities” (Cherry, 2018). As Cherry describes, art can be a powerful tool in therapy of various forms; the therapist need not be licensed as an art therapist to use the creative arts as a medium to encourage self-expression and insight in the client. This is a very important distinction; it is possible and perhaps to be recommended for clinicians to use the arts in therapy without being licensed as an art therapist.
It is important to note that most if not all of the employees and contributors at Painted Brain are not “art therapists.” Instead, we use the creative arts in sessions and groups with contributors and clients to encourage creativity, conversation, self-expression, and positive escapism (https://www.theemotionmachine.com/healthy-escapism-the-emotional-intelligence-behind-fantasy-and-distraction/). Art can be a powerful catalyst to therapeutic progress even if the clinician offering the session is not licensed as an art therapist.
Contributors at the community center of the Painted Brain on W Pico Blvd in Los Angeles are offered a variety of art classes ranging from sewing to photography to the industrial arts. Painted Brain also offers job skills group, community meeting, and more! By involving contributors in the process of organizing and running the community space, the hope is that they will build executive functioning skills they can use at work as well as in their personal lives.
But let’s get back to the point. Over the past several months I and my colleagues at Painted Brain have written a plethora of blogs describing the variety of ways that creativity and arts can help soothe people dealing with issues ranging from depression to anxiety to addiction and beyond. Using art in therapy can be particularly helpful as a way to treat anxiety symptoms (https://psychcentral.com/blog/3-art-therapy-techniques-to-deal-with-anxiety/) in the moment.
At Painted Brain, the therapeutic value often comes through the connections people form with each other as a result of sharing their art, but sometimes just bringing together a group of like-minded individuals can serve to create an environment conducive to socializing as individuals bond over shared trauma related to mental health. At our community center, then, and at the groups Painted Brain runs throughout Los Angeles, contributors are offered the chance to create art, form friendships, and process life challenges in an intentionally safe space.
Overall, it ends up being far less important what the clinical background of the clinician is and far more important that the clinician is able to use the arts to open up conversation with potentially resistant clients who might not be served by traditional treatment modalities, or ways of conducting therapy.
Cherry, K. (2018). How art therapy is used to help people heal. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-art-therapy-2795755
Handel, S. (2013). Healthy escapism: the emotional intelligence behind fantasy and distraction. Retrieved from: https://www.theemotionmachine.com/healthy-escapism-the-emotional-intelligence-behind-fantasy-and-distraction/
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 3 Art Therapy Techniques to Deal with Anxiety https://psychcentral.com/blog/3-art-therapy-techniques-to-deal-with-anxiety/