“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary”
How it all began?
The famous Pablo Picasso said this way back in time in the 1900’s when therapy itself was a new concept and art therapy hadn’t still taken shape. The concept itself dates back to the early 20th century, where Margaret Naumburg, ‘mother of art therapy’, established the Walden School in 1915 in New York. Considering the psychoanalysis wave that was going on at the time, she began to view art therapy as a form of symbolic expression. This along with cognitive and verbal aspects, would begin the healing process more holistically. The books she has authored like Schizophrenic Art: Its Meaning in Psychotherapy (1950) is still used as a reference today. Art therapy also has roots in Anthroposophy, a movement pioneered by Rudolf Steiner.
What is it?
Art therapy can help individuals, families and even entire communities function in increased levels of harmony.
How does it work?
There are art therapists who are certified and capable of understanding how the creative process affects an individual and improves a challenged state of mind. To achieve an outcome they desire, they use a combination of various clinical methods with spiritual, psychological and artistic theories. Some common techniques used are painting, finger painting, scribbling, sculpting, drawing and making collages.
The aim of art therapy is to provide a space for expression that speech cannot. The reason this is effective lies in the fact that illness gives rise to intense emotions and tactile techniques like working with moulding clay and finger painting, provide an outlet. In addition to this, it is an effective method of revealing unconscious, repressed emotion and effectively reduces negative emotion.
Art therapy in India
While this format of therapy has not started booming in India, it still is prevalent in a number of mental health institutions. As opposed to our belief that only children can make art without any restriction, therapists use various methods like the ‘wet on wet’, DAP (draw a person) or HTP (house, tree, person) to understand various deep-rooted issues. Brush strokes, colours, texture, patterns are all key to understanding underlying issues. There are a number of licensed art therapists in India who advocate for this form of therapy and call it an almost meditative process.
Why try art therapy?
The effect that colours and tactile techniques have on our mind is underrated. Colours are chosen for hospital décor, play-school walls and even home interiors after much thinking. Art therapy needn’t be picked up only to resolve issues but also to help stay in touch with emotions, to allow expression of the subconscious/unconscious and for personal development purposes.
Pick up your brush or enroll in a pottery class, the experience is definitely cathartic.