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Healing through the arts

In the long history of mankind, there was often a thought expressed by many artists, the thought of being dismal and despondent, in their actions and ideations, completely alienated. The world in the last century, never felt at ease with art, stamping the artist as societal outcasts. However, the irony lies in the fact that some of the best artistic creations that have determined the course of the standing artistic horizon are indeed the works of creative minds from the auld lang syne. So today, to be present in the 21st century, and watch the slow but significant transition of artists from the basement to the penthouse is indicative of how much the world has evolved, accepting the creators and curators of our visions as one of us, if not superior. It is this widespread acceptance and recognition that has allowed art and artists to flourish, busting the bounds of artistic creativity and allowing art to take unimaginable forms such as that of ‘Art Therapy’.

Influenced by a fine blend of art and psychology, art therapy is the use of innovative processes to assist people undergoing therapeutic treatment to achieve a sense of self-awareness, address unsettled emotional contentions, and boost their social skills by utilizing artistic pieces created in therapy or third power artwork. It may amaze some to learn that art can be an effective instrument in mental health treatment, while also thinking of this approach as a faintly new and peculiar ordeal. However, art therapy, a term born to express the holistic perks of drawing and painting by a British artist on a comeback trail from tuberculosis, originated in the early 1940s. But the establishment of art therapy as a publicly accepted distinctive creative process has only taken place recently, fairly more popular in Europe and the United States as compared to the rest of the world.

Illness is often closely associated with fervent emotions, and it is here that art therapy comes into picture by providing refuge from these feelings. While artistic abilities are often considered inborn capabilities, art therapy requires no such exceptional talent, providing equal benefits to all participants, be it young or old. Drawing, painting, coloring, sculpting, and collage are the commonly used creative techniques in art therapy, where the pivotal focus lies in the analysis of the artistic creation. The final piece of art is what helps decode the complexity of the creators emotions by understanding what has been made, what drove them to make it and eventually how it makes them feel. It is through exploring their art, that people can look for themes and conflicts that may be affecting their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.

Although art therapy has shown to be seemingly effective in the treatment of psychological distress and a broad range of mental disorders, it doesn’t always act as a solo hero, as other psychotherapy techniques are often used in coalescence with art therapy for improved therapeutic results. Art therapy services are available at all possible settings like inpatient offices, private mental health offices, schools, community organizations as well as NGOs. Having made inroads in India only recently, art therapy, as a branch of recreational therapies is yet to make its full fledged mark in the public eye.

All being said, some might still wonder, ‘how does art therapy differ from your average art class?’. Well, while an art class is aimed at perfecting an artistic technique or arriving at a specific finished product, art therapy is much more. Through art therapy, people are given an opportunity to perceive their own imaginations and emotions, focusing on what lies within them rather than fitting into the world around them. Thus, art therapy, is a true representative of the words-‘Art is the expression of those beauties and emotions that stir the human soul’. So, let's not hesitate in letting colors speak volumes and give ourselves a chance to heal through the arts.


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