. In fact, for ADHD, it might be one of the most single most effective therapies to help
and adults to concentrate, slow down, and stabilize.
The same can be said for bipolar disorder
and OCD. Persons suffering with anorexia and bulimia
should similarly consider taking up art as a mood stabilizer.
Art slows down the mind. It can give a person an emotional outlet, while helping build self-esteem. It can stabilize erratic moods, while assisting children and adults find the time for their minds to slow down and heal. Children and teens (adults as well) who have been victims of child abuse should take up art as part of a healing therapy.
Psychologist and theorist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi
wrote extensively about “flow,”which he describes as “a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great freedom, enjoyment, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.”
The artist can experience that state of flow
when absorbed in drawing or painting. This can be true for children
, as well as for victims of child abuse
or children who are emotionally disturbed or experience intrusive thoughts.
Therefore, art as self-help therapy, or as something to be encouraged by parents, educators, and caregivers for children who have mental health disorders or who are emotionally disturbed is of much value.
Psychological Disorders, Self-help and Arts Therapy
Arts Therapy and Specific Mental Health Issues
Creating art or utilizing arts therapy can be more effective than medications
with such disorders as:
- ADHD – Helping children with ADHD to concentrate
- OCD – Assisting persons with OCD towards balance
- Bipolar Disorder – Helping adults, teens, and children to balance mood swings
- Depression – Helping a person suffering from depression to get away from depressing news or negative programming on television.
- Schizophrenia – It can also be part of an effective plan for those with schizophrenia as it calms erratic thoughts.
- Autism – One art teacher in Paterson, NJ, feels that teaching autistic children and teens art in his summer programs has helped them develop the ability to focus. One of his students went on to hold a full-time job. Art was part of the therapies that was of help to some of the children.
- Addictions – Alcohol and drug-dependent clients can benefit from art therapy, as can those addicted to pornography, creative art engages the eye positively, and can contribute to better focus and self-control. If a person drinks or looks at pornography out of boredom, art as a hobby can fill vacant hours productively, when, perhaps, it might be difficult to focus on reading, for example, when at home.
Art as self-help: Natural remedies for ADHD include creating art. Art therapy works for anxiety self-help treatment. Creating artworks as a new skill developed at 50 years old helped Cecelia Carvalho overcome overwhelming anxieties. Painting: Dancing Flowers in Rio, Cecilia Carvalho.
Art and Positive Psychology, Prevention
The creation of art by an individual can help improve
because it gives tangible proof of one's ability to create.
Additionally, art helps children, teens, and adults get away from the overstimulation of television, movies and video games, and create their own little peaceful and creative space. For all of the above reasons, art has an important role to play in 21st Century psychology.
Art is a natural and effective therapy for ADHD. It contributes to self-control, often lacking for those who are diagnosed with ADHD, and it calms the mind.
See ADDA.org article by Daniella Barroqueiro, Ed.D, professor of art education, Illinois State University.
Art Therapy and Self-Help
In addition to self-help, art is used as therapy in a professional setting. Art therapy is a true branch of psychology with its own licensing credentials, associations, and Masters programs in major universities. Art therapists are board-certified.
Where do art therapists work?
- public or private schools
- private practice
- community agencies
From School Art Therapy, Janet Bush (see link below).
Art Therapy Associations Explain Art Therapy
The New Jersey Art Therapy Association describes art therapy as being the therapeutic use of art-making within a professional relationship by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development.
Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences, enhance cognitive abilities, reduce anxiety
, improve social skills, aid reality orientation, increase self-esteem, and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.
The American Art Therapy Association states that art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art-making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.
Art therapy is being used in hospital settings by psychologists and therapists, and in schools, both public and specialized.
Why is art therapy used in schools?
When emotional issues distract a student, learning disabilities, speech or language disorders, behavioral disorders or illness, even a well-trained, experienced teacher may be unable to get beyond these barriers to each effectively.
As one professional on a student services team, the school art therapist is not only trained to recognize these barriers, but to diagnose problems and provide individualized interventions and services to help the student focus on learning.
Art therapy provides a visual and verbal approach to accessing and addressing student needs. As a natural mode of communication for children, it is a means of externalizing the complexities of emotional pain. Children rarely resist the art-making process because it offers ways to express themselves that are less threatening than strictly verbal means.
Which students should receive art therapy services?
Art therapy is valuable for all students, but especially for those experiencing difficulty at school
because of personal crises, disabilities, and behavior. Such students may be in regular education, special education
, and alternative education programs (from: Janet Bush, Ed.S., ATR-BC. Founding member of the Florida Arts Therapy Association).
Both art as therapeutic self-help or parent-directed and art therapy itself can be valuable contributions to the mental health profile of millions of children, teens, and adults suffering from symptoms of ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, schizophrenia, autism, and addictions. For many whose disorders may or not be severe, it can negate the need for medication.
Public schools should consider using art therapy as a standard form of treatment for students with mental health difficulties.
School & Art Therapy, Janet Bush
Cecelia Carvalho of Volta Redonda, Brazil, created the art on this page. She took up art 2007 in response to her doctor's suggestion to use art as therapy for anxieties in lieu of medication. Art as a self-help therapy or in conjunction with professional therapy is a valuable tool and life skill. Painting: Brazilian Village
Art therapy and mood: Positive Art Therapy is more effective than venting
There are a number of ways of using art therapy. One is by using it as a way of "venting" negative emotions. Supposedly, this will help air out negative feelings, and get them out of the subconscious. This can have a positive effect for some.
Another way is by drawing or painting something that expresses happiness or positive emotions—contrary to real feelings. This also can be of value in helping create a positive mood.
Of the two, which is more effective? A study conducted at Boston College, concluded that artwork created expressing positive emotions was of more positive value to emotions than that expressed through "venting".
The study was conducted by inducing a negative mood in participants through watching a serious film that left participants in a negative frame of mind (even though there was, what one could say, a happy ending). The results of the study also leads us to a valid point: certain films and the type of films, and by extension, television programs, can indeed affect mood.
The positive artwork produced a happy mood, contrary to actual feelings. This is important to note for those who use art as a form of self-help; that it can, in fact, help one with depression. If a positive mood is elicited with enough frequency, this can create positive thought patterns, which can lead to some significant relief of depression.
Short-term mood repair through art-making
emotion is more effective than venting (2008), Anne Dalebroux, Thalia R. Goldstein, Ellen Winner
Arts Therapy Page Links
Janet Long, M.A., LMFT, ATR-BC, CTP
Oakland Hills, CA
Janet Long (off-site link)
The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) (off-site link) is an organization of professionals dedicated to the belief that the creative process involved in art-making is healing and life-enhancing. Its mission is to serve its members and the general public by providing standards of professional competence, and developing and promoting knowledge in, and of, the field of art therapy. The AATA represents approximately 5000 members and 36 AATA State and Regional Chapters that conduct meetings and activities to promote art therapy on the local level.
See also Art Therapy Credentials Board
Arts in Health and Care
Arts in Therapy Network
Arts in Psychotherapy magazine
National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations
New Jersey Art Therapy Association
NYU Art therapy page
Best Site on learning to draw simple portraits see:
Drawing the Portrait
Art Therapy page credits:
Roberta Shoemaker-Beal, MFA, ATR-BC, is an adjunct professor of art therapy at St. Mary's of the Woods College, near Terre Haute, Indiana, who reviewed and contributed to the production of this page.
Pages Related to Art and Art Therapy
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Children and Art
- Ideas to help your child involved with art
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