Art as Mirror for Self
Art making has an amazing way of acting as a mirror for the person who is creating the art. The art sometimes encourages words to bubble up from inside. It gives us the opportunity to give voice to unspoken parts that may be in darkness or still in formation.
The Therapeutic Nature of Art-Making
Art therapy is not just about mental health therapy with art materials rather than through talking done in traditional talk therapy and counseling. It uses the core nature of the art process to create the therapeutic process. The handling of the art becomes a metaphor for the struggles of life as well as the triumphs. It can be playful at times, reverent, contemplative, cathartic, and even sublime.
Art Beyond Aesthetics
Somedays the art is ugly; sometimes the process is grueling. Then other times, you just need an ugly cry. There is room here in art therapy for failed attempts for the sake of learning, and for grieving that which could not come to fruition in its final form.
Art as a Gift to Yourself
Furthermore, the art doesn’t have to be marketable. In fact, the art doesn’t even have to be seen by anyone outside the therapy. For example, sometimes in processing difficult emotions or in the example of trauma, you need to sit with the feelings and then seal up the art. This might come in the form of taping a box shut or painting over a layer on a canvas or that you need to put the art in a folder or in a box for an unspecified time and revisit later.
In therapy, as in life, we circle back around to things when they have had time to stabilize, mature, age, or even properly putrify (as in alchemy, or like making fermented foods). Processing trauma, grief, or even in the self-development process, isn’t linear. Art can easily handle and hold contrast, conflicts, undigested symbolic content, and spirilic or a-logical modes of thoughts and being.
Art Therapy as Metaphor
Art therapy takes the relationship of the artist to the art, the art-making process, and the materials themselves and brings these aspects to the forefront. Unlike making art “just for fun” with the example of paint nights or adult coloring books, the relationship between the person making the art, the art, and the art therapist work in synergy as a process of self-discovery and healing. This is what makes each piece of art and each person’s process so unique. There is a unique story unfolding for each individual’s art therapy journey.
Final Thoughts – My Words Fall Short
As usual, I feel like my words don’t do the awe-inspiring process enough deference to honor the living quality of a person’s life. Each person’s life is a work of art. Art therapy takes a person’s struggle and elevates it through metaphor to an archetypal level.
It really is a beautiful process. Contact me if you’d like to see if art therapy is calling you.