An intro to Art Therapy, self-care and healing through creative expression

Written by Mei Goh, Family Support Practitioner at Very Special Kids

Art or creative expression has existed since the beginning of human history and has evolved along with humankind. Through archeological discovery we find many forms of creative expressions like cave drawings that record the practices and stories of tribal groups. It is the oldest form of the expression of self and “self- therapy”. While art or creative work serves a decorative, novel or entertaining purpose, it also has a deeper meaning for both individuals and the collective where one can connect to self-understanding, a search for meaning, personal growth and transformation.  Art chronicles and conveys a wide range of emotions, from profound joy to the deepest sorrow, from triumph to trauma.

Art Therapy has grown from the concept that art and creative expression serves as a way for us to make sense and clarify inner experiences that often words alone cannot. The images and processes can help us to understand who we are, to express feelings and ideas, to enhances life and heal past wounds.  It is an education of our senses

Art engages our hands in a process of awakening the senses within our body. Our body is wired to heal and the primitive brain does its best to take care of our body. A person who undergoes trauma, significant loss and stress in life over a prolonged period of time without resolution will develop heightened cortisol levels. Longitudinal studies and research suggests that, prolonged heightened cortisol levels in the body have been known to cause a multitude of health issues.

The role of an Art Therapist is to create and hold a safe space which allows the client’s instinctual senses to go through the motion that their body needs in order to reconnect, rewire and heal.

However, there are many ways for anyone to engage in self-care and healing through creative expressions in our own time and space. You do not have to be a skilled artist or be trained professionally to engage in creative expressions. To start with you might like to try a mindfulness colouring book which are available in every book store. Alternatively, you might find your own creative activity. Maybe it’s an activity that you previously participated in, but for whatever reason was put on the backburner years ago. Remember, it is not about the “art piece you create” but the journey and process you go through in completing the art.

Some of the things you can do are:

  • Drawing
  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Sculpting
  • Sewing
  • Writing
  • Painting
  • Pottery making and etc.

The meditative processes of immersing your mind and body in creative expression helps a person to reconnect and to release powerful or distressing emotions. Even if it is the practice of putting 15 to 30 minutes aside in our day or week for this creative expression can bring a multitude of benefits to our body and mind.

Some of the benefits of giving yourself time and space for self-creative expression are:

  • Promote growth
  • Soothing
  • Stress reducing
  • Self-expression
  • Emotional reparation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Transformation
  • Relief from overwhelming emotions, crisis or trauma
  • Achieve an increased sense of well-being
  • Enrich your daily life
  • Experience personal change
  • Make sense of that which is painful
  • To become whole