Art Therapy As A Means of Self-Expression

By Shimali Perera, AThR

Art can play with our imagination and take us to places that we have never dreamed of. In the same manner, it can reveal to us the places we fear to go to, in order to heal our inner being. As an Art Therapist, I have often encountered this in my own artistic journey, as well as in the journeys of my clients. Art seems to do for us, what words alone cannot describe. It reveals a hidden world deep in our unconscious mind that is calling out for healing.

However, as adults, most of us at times may feel that art is something that we did long ago as children in school or that we are not artists to create something that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.  This may keep us from attempting to draw, paint, or sculpt. Art, in Art Therapy is quite different in that sense; it is not the same art we are used to looking at in galleries and museums. In Art Therapy, the focus is not on the final product created by the individual, but in the process of art making. Therefore, prior knowledge in art or skills in art are not a requirement for Art Therapy. Thereby, the process of art making as a whole, has a therapeutic value to the client who works alongside a trained Art Therapist (Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association, 2014).

The value of Art Therapy is immense; individuals from different age groups and populations that have a willingness to accept change reap countless psychological, emotional and even physical benefits by engaging in a positive therapeutic encounter. As therapy takes place in a safe and confidential environment individuals are given the freedom to express what may be difficult to say in words. This increases self-esteem, develops interpersonal skills, manages difficult behaviour and emotions, reduces stress, resolves conflicts, develops coping skills, and achieves insight. Thus, art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses a variety of art media in order to bring about healing by promoting self-expression.

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