Art Therapy

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The following is a guest post blog from The Innocent Lotus:

There have been several periods in my life where I have needed to seek help from a professional. The most recent involved around regular visits to a wonderful lady named Andrea. Seeking therapy or counselling should never be something that one feels ashamed about. Without her ability to listen with her whole being, care, and see the big picture I wouldn’t be as grounded as I am today.

Therapy can seem difficult or even impossible at the best of times. It relies on your own ability to voice your concerns and express how you are really feeling. A good therapist will have techniques to help you access those feelings and put them into perspective. However it relies on you being honest not only with your therapist, but yourself, which can be a difficult barrier to break. What about when all you have is a swirling mess of thoughts, and none of them seem to make sense? What about something that was so traumatic that you are fearful to speak of it? Sometimes the issue is so big, and so overwhelming that words couldn’t even begin to describe how you are feeling. Imagine a small child suffering abuse, a soldier of war, a tortured refugee, a rape victim, or someone with a disability that has prevented them from using their voice as a communication tool for healing.

Art therapy can apply not only to drawing and painting, but also to sculpting, music, creative writing, poetry, dance and drama. It is the creative process itself, and its expression that is the medium for releasing those pent up feelings. The best thing is, you do not need to have any experience or skill in art making – the process is not about creating aesthetic images, but about effecting change and growth through artistic expression. How you feel while making your art and what you learn about yourself is the most important thing.

Using visual art as an example, if you intuitively draw something on a piece of paper what colours did you use? Are the lines flowing and intricate, or jagged and harsh? Is the composition small and cramped, or sparse? Are there symbols in the image that create meaning for you? You may be surprised at what your subconscious mind brings forward. Maybe you find your voice in the written word, using metaphors and poetry to describe the images flashing in your mind?

As young children before we learn to speak, we experience the world in visual, auditory and tactile terms. Imagery that we experienced as a child will often evoke certain emotions, even as an adult. Using art as expression, we can tap into those areas of our consciousness that formed before we could talk, and voice our emotional needs.

The creative process can be almost meditative in nature, and many artists experience the sensation of being lost in time, not realising how long they have been working for. This in itself is beneficial for those with mental health challenges as it can bring some relief from anxiety and depression.

Whether you consider yourself to be an artist or not, could you benefit from more art in your life?

My blog is an expression of some of my art and writings that formed during times when I wasn’t able to articulate what I was feeling in any other way. Art therapy can be a very personal thing to share, and I’ll admit that I’ve had moments of anxiety and vulnerability about posting. Some things I will not share, not for fear of judgement but because they could be a trigger or disturbing to others. Of course we all have different thresholds of what we find offensive, but I will do my best to spin a positive light even on topics that are dark in nature.

Last year I attended an Introductory workshop on Transpersonal Art Therapy with the IKON Institute of Australia. I have been drawing and painting since I was a small child, and as an adult sufferer of mental illness I connected with the ideas presented on so many levels. I now have even more motivation to pursue art and writing as valid form expression. Earlier this year I was also accepted to study at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute, however my circumstances at the time prevented me from accepting their offer. My dream job would be to work as an art therapist, using my passions and life experience to help others.

You can find Michele’s Blog at: http://innocentlotus.wordpress.com

You can also visit the IKON Institute at http://www.ikoninstitute.com.au

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