Art therapy is a therapeutic process that uses art as a tool for a means of expression. Often art therapy is helpful for people who have trouble expressing themselves verbally. In a psycho-dynamic approach the therapist and client use the artistic expression, principally created by the client, as a way to discovering and uncovering who the person truly is. This path to self discovery is key to helping the individual deal and resolve inner conflicts with oneself and the world.
To pursue art therapy, a person does not have to be an artist per se, just feel comfortable enough with visual materials so that he/she is free to express themselves. Emphasis is placed on process rather than product so the goal is not to create a beautiful piece of art. The goal is to concentrate on how the art is made so which can lead to a process of self-discovery.
A therapeutic relationship is built over time and studies and experiences have proven that ones well being can be improved due to this type of relationship. In the therapeutic space a holding environment is created by the therapist where the person can feel safe while making realizations and exploring changes. The art piece serves in helping the therapist to see some of the clients inner processes. This helps to build an empathic relationship and strengthens connections between the therapist and client.
Apart from the benefits that a person receives from the therapeutic relationship there are added benefits from art making. Creating artwork produces calming affects as well as helping to produce neural changes in our brains. "Balancing verbal and nonverbal processes supports neural integration and stress reduction” (Hass-Cohen, 2015). Art therapy can use certain calming techniques such as grounding and anchoring. Grounding is a way to reinforce being in the here and now by focusing on an aspect in the external reality usually relying on the senses. Anchoring is another way to focus in on the present by shifting from anxious to calm feelings using an object. These techniques can be carried out in art therapy with the aid of the art piece as the external reality.
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