Art therapy can be described as a psychological intervention that involves creative visual arts that are used for expressions. The treatment strategy helps clients to evaluate, discover, and find solutions for their negative feelings and thoughts that are linked with specific experiences (McMillan, Moo, Arora, & Costa, 2018). The negative emotions can be anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, grief, and shame. Creative art therapies include dance therapies, music therapies, drama therapies, or play therapies. Arts activities help individuals to increase positive emotions or express gratitude. The positive emotions include joy, serenity, appreciation, interest, pride, hope, delight, admiration, and inspiration. Historically, art interventions have been used globally for purposes of communication and healing (McMillan et al., 2018). The traditional healers utilized arts in healing ceremonies, community dialogues, and rites of passage.
Art therapy allows clients to express their negative and positive emotions and thoughts through music, drama, movement, painting, photography, play, and storytelling. These activities help clients to heal their body, mind, and soul thus promoting their well-being (Darewych & Riedel Bowers, 2017). Clients gain a sense of accomplishment and use their senses to connect with the world around them. It is essential to note that the therapy should be performed by professional art therapists who are trained and equipped with the necessary skills to offer therapy services. According to the Association of American Art Therapy, the therapy addresses the personal treatment goals and meets community concerns (Regev & Cohen-Yatziv, 2018).
Art therapy targets individuals who have trauma or those having difficulty expressing themselves verbally. Trauma survivors may be struggling with the right words to express their pain (Darewych & Riedel Bowers, 2017). The clients can be children or adults who have acquired brain injuries. These clients may be suffering from developmental challenges that affect their verbal communication. Post-stroke patients who have language difficulties can also benefit from the use of art therapy. These target groups generally have problems with verbal expression and thus are the great beneficiaries of creative art therapies.
The mechanism of the therapy involves improving the cognitive and sensorimotor skills of the clients. The therapy aims at fostering self-awareness, boosting an individual’s self-esteem, and enhancing social skills (Regev & Cohen-Yatziv, 2018). Art therapy supports the personal goals of the client as well as the community concerns. Art therapists aim at boosting positive mental images that erase the negative images. They also focus on strengthening the individual’s positive trait, inspiring them to move forward, and helping clients find meaning in life (Darewych & Riedel Bowers, 2017). At the end of the therapy, individuals should be able to resolve their distress, and they should also have gained positive emotions and thoughts.
The therapy can be considered evidence-based because of the current evidence on the clinical effectiveness using art therapy. Several randomized clinical trials and systemic reviews that have been done to show its efficacy in various patients including children and adolescents (McMillan, Moo, Arora, & Costa, 2018). Art therapy has for long been used to treat psychological trauma. It has also been shown to reduce anxiety and depression associated with trauma. Since 2012, several primary studies and systemic reviews have been published to demonstrate the effectiveness of art therapy in clinical settings (McMillan, Moo, Arora, & Costa, 2018). Some studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of art therapy in reducing stress associated with medical conditions, or family and life issues thus improving the ability of clients to cope with various psychological symptoms (Regev & Cohen-Yatziv, 2018).
I would recommend art therapy under specific circumstances for individuals undergoing traumatic experiences. Such experiences could be injuries from accidents or having a clinical condition like cancer that is causing trauma. Art therapy could also help people going through domestic violence or sexual abuse because such situations tend to traumatize the victims. Because of its successful use in addressing some of the conditions like trauma, depression, and posttraumatic stress, art therapy is gaining ground to be used in clinical settings to improve the health and well-being of individuals.
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