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Painted Brain | Art Therapy For Depression
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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Photo by Noémi Macavei-Katócz on Unsplash

Art Therapy for Depression


Many people have found art to be extremely therapeutic, both in creating it and observing it. Anything from sketching, journaling, or clay sculpting can serve as a great way to express your emotions. In addition to creating something that is meaningful to you, art therapy can be extremely valuable to your mental health, such as in treating issues like depression. Anyone that has experienced the symptoms of depression knows how difficult even everyday tasks might be; the process of talk therapy itself can be a challenge. Research has found that using art in that process can prove to be extremely beneficial.

How is Art Therapy beneficial? As stated by the American Art Therapy Association,

“Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress and advance societal and ecological change”.

Anyone can benefit from art therapy. As long as you are open to exploring different methods of self-expression, you can unleash your inner artist and tap into creativity you may not have known was in you all along. The goal of art therapy is not to become a successful artist, but to use any form of art as a way of finding meaning and connection in your life. Creating something via any artistic platform is a form of self-expression and a way to get in touch with your feelings.

Research shows that art therapy helps treat depression by providing a unique way to express feelings that might be difficult to vocalize. Opening up to a complete stranger can often be difficult to do, but given a theme and some art supplies, people are able to channel their emotions and feelings into creative art. Creating something can even often facilitate the exploration of emotions that you weren’t aware of having. According to this study, “Painting pictures based on themes and discussing the pictures with the therapist promotes self-reflection and brain stimulation that takes place outside of the conscious mind.”

Using art therapy can also be a great way to ground yourself by focusing your attention on the specific task in the present moment. It’s a great way to take a break from everyday inevitable stressors and connect with yourself in our fast-paced world. Further research also has indicated that when you are admiring the art you create, you release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is a chemical that is associated with feelings of pleasure and happiness. When we create something it can increase our sense of self-efficacy and motivate us to keep going. Engaging in group art therapy can facilitate making connections with others and increasing social skills.  

Overall, mental health benefits of art therapy include self-discovery of feelings that have been hiding in your subconscious, improved self-esteem, emotional release, and mental and physical stress relief. Whether you choose to create art at home for therapeutic purposes or with a licensed professional, you may really be able to see improvements to your quality of life and mental well-being.

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