Art, Therapy and Healing

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Art, Therapy and Healing

Art is a powerful medium it can facilitate the expression of emotions,  it can give form to that which is unspeakable and it can allow expression of deep-seated and subconscious material. Art therapy is a non-verbal approach to understanding the self, and thoughts and feelings that may be affecting our behaviours. 

Interestingly there are a number of areas of the brain that are activated during artistic expression - kinesthetic/sensory, perceptual/affective and cognitive/symbolic (Psych Central) .  Sensory stimulation can facilitate the formation of imagery and it is thought to stimulate emotional responses. Emotion influences artistic expression, and in turn, art and visual imagery can evoke and enable the processing of emotions.

Liesl Silverstone held that there are different levels of working with art therapeutically. The first level is that of creative expression itself. To visualise and creatively express can be in itself healing. To be able to express and to see what has been put down in image form can be a deeply transformative experience.  Many artists have created art in response to trauma and pain, and the connection between art and suffering is well known.

A  further stage is to explore the image. Working with an image in this way this can enable insight and expression of deeper unconscious material.  Images created in this way often contain an unconscious wish or a symbolic message. Bringing this into the open can help develop awareness, insight and a deeper healing and integration.

However, according to Liesl, it may also be necessary to then work on the message and meaning contained in the image. In this way, a person is in effect leading themselves and empowering themselves in their own journey. This reflects the ethos of the person-centred approach in its trust of the capacity and direction of the individual.


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