Currently Browsing: Blog

Art Therapy and Grief

Grief can be a difficult emotion for anyone, regardless of age. Professionals in grief counseling and art therapy work together to address effective non-verbal therapeutic approaches for those dealing with grief. Researchers have worked to show the effectiveness of art therapy for bereaved individuals of all ages. When someone is experiencing grief, it is important for him or her to not feel isolated, but rather to be surrounded and supported by his or her community. Having a support network is one of the effective ways that those experiencing grief can begin to heal. When the support network encourages art-making, especially among young people who have difficulty verbalizing their feelings, the grief may become easier to bear. Grief When someone close to you passes away, there are a range of emotions and reactions that may be experienced. There is a standard model of grief that has four tasks that must be completed to move on. The developmental tasks include: Accepting the reality of loss: acknowledging and realizing that the death has occurred Working through to the pain of the grief: not everyone experiences the same pain intensity, Adjusting to the environment where the deceased person is missing Emotionally relocating the deceased and moving on with life Grief is a highly personal process that varies by individual, so this process is a very general guideline. Learning to cope with the pain takes time and help. Those experiencing grief will move through the steps at their own pace with the guidance of a counselor. The emotional reaction of grieving can include numbness along with pain. The Counselor’s Role Giving support to those who experience grief is one of the roles of a grief counselor. There are a number of steps the counselor goes through to advise the person who experienced loss. The first step is acknowledging the loss, by allowing the individual to grieve and share how he or she is feeling. The next includes identifying and expressing the feelings being experienced. Often a wide range of emotions is experienced while grieving, ranging from regret and anger to helplessness and guilt. One of the most important roles of the counselor is to explore the individual’s coping skills. When the bereaved are given a number of ways to cope with the pain they are feeling, they are better prepared to handle it in a healthy way. Art and Grieving One of these coping skills is the creation of art. Art therapy, particularly performed in a group setting, creates a safe space for those...

Art Therapy and Incarceration

It can be challenging to administer art therapy in a group setting. Patients need to trust each other, or they will not share anything that could make them feel vulnerable. This scenario is typical for incarcerated patients. It is too risky for them to share how they are feeling, which would make them a target for other patients’ attacks, so therapy can often stall early on. Inmates who are illiterate or find it difficult to communicate verbally can also find it difficult to articulate the problems they experience. Making art can serve as a benefit to incarcerated populations, sometimes without them even realizing what is happening. Difficulties of Therapy with Inmates Prisons are not often the easiest settings to administer therapy. Prison culture encourages inmates to have rigid defense mechanisms that can be difficult to overcome. The strict quality of prisoner hierarchy leaves little room for flexibility. Surviving in prison can make inmates take on qualities they would not have in the outside world. The prison environment can encourage sociopathic tendencies, including a rampant lack of trust. This creates the challenging situation of effectively administering therapy to many prisoners who desperately need therapy There are a number of reasons that inmates who suffer from mental illness and should be getting treatment don’t. These reasons include: Budgetary constraints Limited number of counselors or therapists Frequent movement of inmates Lack of space Trauma Art therapy has shown to be effective in treating patients who have experienced trauma. Though all inmates have a unique background and path, they all share the experience of being incarcerated. Prison is a harsh environment that can be psychologically damaging to inmates, making them feel hopeless or powerless. The trauma of incarceration can worsen Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or create PTSD-like symptoms. These symptoms include: Difficulty sleeping Irritability Feeling detached Flashbacks and/or nightmares How Art Therapy Helps Art is something that has been done in prison for many years. Having artistic talent, whether decorating envelopes, giving tattoos, or making murals, can increase the level of respect an inmate gets. Studies published in the American Journal of Art Therapy have shown that participation in arts programs decreases the number of disciplinary reports on inmates. It is shown to work despite illiteracy and other obstacles that inmates deal with. A study published in The Arts and Psychotherapy showed that art therapy is effective in increasing mood, improving socialization, enhancing problem-solving skills, and locus of control. The art-making process was seen as more beneficial than the end result. The process of...

Art Therapy and PTSD

After experiencing a traumatic event, people are often diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People can experience the symptoms of PTSD after a number of traumatic events, ranging from sexual assault to surviving a natural disaster. After living through this kind of trauma, people can find it difficult to articulate what is bothering them. One of the main presenting symptoms of PTSD is reliving the trauma through flashbacks. Art therapists work with patients to work through their experiences and come to terms with the pain they have lived through. PTSD: What is it and what are the Symptoms? At points in everyone’s life, negative or unpleasant experiences can impact how you feel for the rest of the day or days to follow. When you experience something particularly traumatic, however, and experience the impact of it in the months after, you could potentially be suffering from PTSD. Women, children under age 10, and war veterans are most at risk for developing it. However, living through a traumatic event does not necessarily mean that you will experience PTSD. Common symptoms include: Recurrent, disturbing memories of the event Feeling as if you are reliving the event Bad dreams Negative feelings about yourself or others Feeling numb emotionally A sense of hopelessness Self-destructive behavior The behavior needs to last more than a month to be characterized as PTSD as opposed to acute stress disorder. Obsessive compulsive disorder is also characterized by recurring imagery, but does not relate back to a specific traumatic event. Traditional Treatment Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has shown to be effective in treating patients with PTSD. CBT works by changing how the victim feels and acts by changing patterns of thoughts or behaviors responsible for the negative emotions. Patients learn to replace the negative thoughts with ones that are less distressing. A function of this form of therapy involves exposing patients slowly to what is causing the recurring problem, until they can accept it (known as exposure). CBT is an effective treatment for many mental illnesses and has been shown to work for PTSD. It can be also used in conjunction with art therapy. Many medications, including antidepressants, can be prescribed as treatment, but have more varied results. Art Therapy as Treatment Domestic violence and sexual assault centers often have art therapists on staff to help victims process the trauma that happened to them. The traumatic memories that play the largest role in flashbacks are encoded in non-verbal areas of the brain. This makes them difficult to talk about. Because...

How to Become an Art Therapist

Art therapy is an interesting field to pursue for people interested in mental health and creative expression. Therapists must have thorough knowledge of psychology and art in order to understand how to use the two together productively. Learning techniques of painting, drawing, sculpture, and other art media, as well as theories of human development and counseling, enables art therapy students to be successful. Art therapy is a profession that is on the rise in the field of psychology. The career outlook is expected to grow through 2020. As more research is conducted and published about art therapy and its benefits in many settings, more opportunities will become available for therapists to practice. The field is still relatively young, even for psychology, and is gaining importance with each passing year. For anyone interested in becoming an art therapist, there are certain steps that need to be taken. Qualities Being a member of a helping profession is a demanding job that is not suitable for everyone. Before beginning the extensive education process, it is important to understand the qualities required of an art therapist and decide whether they are something you have. Being an effective communicator is one of these important qualities, as well as being a good listener. It is also crucial to be a very patient person, as the techniques can be time-consuming before seeing results. As with all forms of therapy, being compassionate and empathetic towards patients will help you to build therapeutic relationships. Once you have established that you have these characteristics, you need to begin the education process. Education In college, students contemplating a career in art therapy should take courses in psychology and art. Students often major in counseling or psychology, while minoring in art, or at least taking a variety of art classes. It is important to have experience in both areas to be an effective art therapist. Once you have completed your undergraduate degree in one of these areas you will need to obtain a master’s degree in art therapy from an accredited program. To be accepted to a master’s program in this field, a student must compile a portfolio of their artwork for submission and review. The type of classes a student takes in this program include: Theories of art therapy Counseling and psychotherapy Ethics Research methods Individual, group, and family art therapy techniques Human development It is also helpful to get an internship with an art therapist to experience what sessions are like firsthand. Certification and Licensing Though local requirements vary,...

Art Therapy and Autism

What is ASD? Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition with a wide range of symptoms and levels of impairment, typically diagnosed in the first two years of life. The exact causes of the disorder are still unknown, but genetic and environmental factors are thought to both play a role. Children with ASD can have deficits in social communication in multiple contexts and are known to have specific interests and repetitive patterns of behavior. These symptoms must cause clinically significant impairment in multiple settings for a child to be diagnosed. A 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the rate of children diagnosed with ASD had increased to 1 in 68 children, with boys being four to five times more likely to be affected. What are the Symptoms? Given the pervasive diagnosis of this disorder in American children, it is important to understand what symptoms to look for. The younger the child is when he or she starts receiving treatment, the better the outcome. In children younger than one year old, an aversion to eye contact and lack of interaction with their parents can be a warning sign. In some cases, children will not show any symptoms until they are two or three years old, when they suddenly begin to withdraw and stop interacting socially . This is known as regression and can happen to some children with ASD. Children with ASD do not respond to social or emotional cues because they focus on different parts of the face when someone is talking to them than typically developing children do. For example, instead of making eye contact during a conversation they will be focusing on the mouth. There are many other symptoms of ASD that a doctor uses before making a diagnosis. Art Therapy and ASD Children with ASD are chronically over-stimulated and anxious. They have difficulty with verbal expression and lack many tools of communication. Art therapy can be very helpful to these children who need a way of channeling their emotions. It motivates children with ASD to connect with someone (the therapist or other members of the group if group therapy), and provides them with a non-verbal means of communication. Art therapists are trained to help these children express themselves comfortably. The creative activities of art therapy provide improvements in: Attention span Organization Problem solving Flexibility Impulse control Cognitive functioning With children who have such difficulty communicating, and some that are completely non-verbal, a therapy that encourages other options is very helpful....