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Is Art Therapy The Path To Mental Well-Being?

With new research suggesting that viewing art might improve mental health, some doctors are prescribing museum visits. Is art really a shortcut to happiness? Is Art Therapy The Path To Mental Well-Being?

Is Art Therapy The Path To Mental Well-Being?

During a dark period in his youth, Bill Murray thought about killing himself while wandering the streets of Chicago. “I was ready to die,” the actor said at a press conference several years ago.

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That day he decided to visit the Art Institute and found himself in front of Jules Breton’s 1884 painting The Song of the Lark, which depicts a young woman looking skyward, sickle in hand, a violent orange sunrise behind her.


Suddenly, Murray felt hope. “I just thought, Well, there’s a girl who doesn’t have a whole lot of prospects, but the sun’s coming up anyway and she’s got another chance at it,” he said. “That gave me some sort of feeling that I too am a person, and get another chance every day the sun comes up.” Murray credits the painting with saving his life.

 

Is Art Therapy The Path To Mental Well-Being?

Though making art has long been regarded as a form of therapy through self-expression, recently, the passive participation—the looking at art—is now being assessed as a different way of improving mental health. ​​

“We know that for a lot of people, making art can be very therapeutic,” says Tim A. Shaw, artist and co-founder of the arts and mental health charity Hospital Rooms. “But also, making art isn’t usually an easy, relaxing thing for artists; it’s an uncomfortable pleasure.”

Is Art Therapy The Path To Mental Well-Being?

A few months ago, doctors at one of Brussels’s largest hospitals partnered with—and began prescribing visits to—the city’s fine arts museums. “We’re in the middle of a crisis [that has] brought so much stress to people, and I think that culture may be the answer,” says Delphine Houba, alderwoman for culture in Brussels.

The World Health Organization, in 2019, also released a 146-page report that recommends the inclusion of arts in the treatment of mental health. In the U.K., Hospital Rooms has been transforming dozens of psychiatric wards by painting their walls and filling them with art, commissioning works by artists like Nick Knight and Gavin Turk.

Beautiful environments could impact both our mood and physical well-being, according to several studies in publications including the Journal of Psychiatric Intensive Care and Frontiers in Psychology. “Generally, beauty and music or art is very rewarding to the human brain,” says Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist and professor of neural science at New York University.

“It can activate our natural, de-stressing part of our nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system that slows our heart rate down. And I think that’s so important these days because our stress and anxiety levels are so high.”

A number of studies have shown that hospital patients who visit gardens or even just have window views of nature often recover faster than those who don’t. But beautiful views are not intrinsic to hospital designs, so bringing art into facilities helps provide that same sense of tranquility.

Artworks can also encourage conversation among patients, says Shaw. “It goes beyond decoration. It’s much more about bringing some humanness to a space,” he says.

Much of the current research is contributing to the growing field of what’s referred to as neuroaesthetics, studying how the brain reacts to different forms of art, and how aesthetic appreciation can affect mental health. Which will enhance your mood: a Pollock or a Monet?

That, says Shaw, is too personal for conclusive data. ​​“What we’re trying to get away from is the very simplistic research that’s out there that says people like blue more than red, or that people like landscapes, because it doesn’t really take in the nuance of individuals’ preference or history with color and imagery and aesthetics,” he says.

Is Art Therapy The Path To Mental Well-Being?

At the dawn of a new year, as resolutions are set, many will focus on wellness in the form of gym memberships and dieting. Is looking at art a shortcut to happiness? Though it may be a more seductive option, Suzuki isn’t fully convinced.

Rather, she says, beauty and art are “wonderful for de-stressing, for inspiring, and those are emotional states that can help counteract anxiety and depression. But there are many things that are strongly scientifically backed that can improve your mood immediately, with exercise being No. 1 on my list.”

Or, you can do both: So run, don’t walk, to your nearest museum.

What Is Art Therapy?

The use of artistic methods to treat psychological disorders and enhance mental health is known as art therapy. Art therapy is a technique rooted in the idea that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being.

People have been relying on the arts for communication, self-expression, and healing for thousands of years. But art therapy didn’t start to become a formal program until the 1940s.

Doctors noted that individuals living with mental illness often expressed themselves in drawings and other artworks, which led many to explore the use of art as a healing strategy.3 Since then, art has become an important part of the therapeutic field and is used in some assessment and treatment techniques.

Types of Creative Therapies

Art therapy is not the only type of creative art used in the treatment of mental illness.

Techniques

The goal of art therapy is to utilize the creative process to help people explore self-expression and, in doing so, find new ways to gain personal insight and develop new coping skills.

The creation or appreciation of art is used to help people explore emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stress, boost self-esteem, and work on social skills.

Techniques Used In Art Therapy Can Include:

  • Collage
  • Coloring
  • Doodling And Scribbling
  • Drawing
  • Finger Painting
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Sculpting
  • Working With Clay

As clients create art, they may analyze what they have made and how it makes them feel. Through exploring their art, people can look for themes and conflicts that may be affecting their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

What Art Therapy Can Help With

Art therapy can be used to treat a wide range of mental disorders and psychological distress. In many cases, it might be used in conjunction with other psychotherapy techniques such as group therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Some Conditions That Art Therapy May Be Used To Treat Include:

  • Aging-Related Issues
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Emotional Difficulties
  • Family or Relationship Problems
  • Medical Conditions
  • Psychological Symptoms Associated With Other Medical Issues
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychosocial Issues
  • Stress
  • Substance Use Disorder

Benefits of Art Therapy

According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, less than an hour of creative activity can reduce your stress and have a positive effect on your mental health, regardless of artistic experience or talent.

An art therapist may use a variety of art methods, including drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage with clients ranging from young children to older adults.

Clients who have experienced emotional trauma, physical violence, domestic abuse, anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues can benefit from expressing themselves creatively.

Some Situations In Which Art Therapy Might Be Utilized Include:

  • Adults Experiencing Severe Stress
  • Children Experiencing Behavioral Or Social Problems At School Or At Home
  • Children Or Adults Who Have Experienced A Traumatic Event
  • Children With Learning Disabilities
  • Individuals Living With A Brain Injury
  • People Experiencing Mental Health Problems11

Effectiveness

While research suggests that art therapy may be beneficial, some of the findings on its effectiveness are mixed. Studies are often small and inconclusive, so further research is needed to explore how and when art therapy may be most beneficial.

  • In Studies Of Adults Who Experienced Trauma, Art Therapy Was Found To Significantly Reduce Trauma Symptoms And Decrease Levels Of Depression.
  • One Review Of The Effectiveness Of Art Therapy Found That This Technique Helped Patients Undergoing Medical Treatment For Cancer Improve Their Quality Of Life And Alleviated A Variety Of Psychological Symptoms.
  • One Study Found That Art Therapy Reduced Depression And Increased Self-Esteem In Older Adults Living In Nursing Homes.

Things To Consider

If you or someone you love is thinking about art therapy, there are some common misconceptions and facts you should know.

You Don’t Have To Be Artistic

People do not need to have artistic ability or special talent to participate in art therapy, and people of all ages including children, teens, and adults can benefit from it. Some research suggests that just the presence of art can play a part in boosting mental health.

A 2017 study found that art displayed in hospital settings contributed to an environment where patients felt safe. It also played a role in improving socialization and maintaining an identity outside of the hospital.

It’s Not The Same As An Art Class

People often wonder how an art therapy session differs from an art class. Where an art class is focused on teaching technique or creating a specific finished product, art therapy is more about letting clients focus on their inner experience.

In creating art, people are able to focus on their own perceptions, imagination, and feelings. Clients are encouraged to create art that expresses their inner world more than making something that is an expression of the outer world.

Art Therapy Can Take Place In A Variety of Settings

Inpatient offices, private mental health offices, schools, and community organizations are all possible settings for art therapy services. Additionally, art therapy may be available in other settings such as:

  • Art Studios
  • Colleges And Universities
  • Community Centers
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Elementary Schools And High Schools
  • Group Homes
  • Homeless Shelters
  • Hospitals17
  • Private Therapy Offices
  • Residential Treatment Centers
  • Senior Centers
  • Wellness Center
  • Women’s Shelters

If specialized media or equipment is required, however, finding a suitable setting may become challenging.

Art Therapy Is Not for Everyone

Art therapy isn’t for everyone. While high levels of creativity or artistic ability aren’t necessary for art therapy to be successful,10 many adults who believe they are not creative or artistic might be resistant or skeptical of the process.

In addition, art therapy has not been found effective for all types of mental health conditions. For example, one meta-analysis found that art therapy is not effective in reducing positive or negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

How To Get Started

If You Think You Or Someone You Love Would Benefit From Art Therapy, Consider The Following Steps:

  • Seek Out A Trained Professional. Qualified art therapists will hold at least a master’s degree in psychotherapy with an additional art therapy credential. To find a qualified art therapist, consider searching the Art Therapy Credentials Board website.
  • Call Your Health Insurance. While art therapy may not be covered by your health insurance, there may be certain medical waivers to help fund part of the sessions. Your insurance may also be more likely to cover the sessions if your therapist is a certified psychologist or psychiatrist who offers creative therapies.
  • Ask About Their Specialty. Not all art therapists specialize in all mental health conditions. Many specialize in working with people who have experienced trauma or individuals with substance use disorders, for example.
  • Know What To Expect. During the first few sessions, your art therapist will likely ask you about your health background as well as your current concerns and goals. They may also suggest a few themes to begin exploring via drawing, painting, sculpting, or another medium.
  • Be Prepared To Answer Questions About Your Art-Making Process. As the sessions progress, you’ll likely be expected to answer questions about your art and how it makes you feel. For example: What were you thinking while doing the art? Did you notice a change of mood from when you started to when you finished? Did the artwork stir any memories?

Becoming An Art Therapist

If you are interested in becoming an art therapist, start by checking with your state to learn more about the education, training, and professional credentials you will need to practice. In most cases, you may need to first become a licensed clinical psychologist, professional counselor, or social worker in order to offer psychotherapy services.

In the United States, the Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. (ATCB) offers credentialing programs that allow art therapists to become registered, board-certified, or licensed depending upon the state in which they live and work.

According To The American Art Therapy Association, The Minimum Requirements:

Additional post-graduate supervised experience is also required. You can learn more about the training and educational requirements to become an art therapist on the AATA website.

 

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Coinbase CEO: Institutions Depositing $200-400M Into Crypto Per Week (#GotBitcoin?)

Researchers Find Monero Mining Malware That Hides From Task Manager (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Dusting Attack Affects Nearly 300,000 Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)

A Case For Bitcoin As Recession Hedge In A Diversified Investment Portfolio (#GotBitcoin?)

SEC Guidance Gives Ammo To Lawsuit Claiming XRP Is Unregistered Security (#GotBitcoin?)

15 Countries To Develop Crypto Transaction Tracking System: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

US Department Of Commerce Offering 6-Figure Salary To Crypto Expert (#GotBitcoin?)

Mastercard Is Building A Team To Develop Crypto, Wallet Projects (#GotBitcoin?)

Canadian Bitcoin Educator Scams The Scammer And Donates Proceeds (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon Wants To Build A Blockchain For Ads, New Job Listing Shows (#GotBitcoin?)

Shield Bitcoin Wallets From Theft Via Time Delay (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockstream Launches Bitcoin Mining Farm With Fidelity As Early Customer (#GotBitcoin?)

Commerzbank Tests Blockchain Machine To Machine Payments With Daimler (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Historical Returns Look Very Attractive As Online Banks Lower Payouts On Savings Accounts (#GotBitcoin?)

Man Takes Bitcoin Miner Seller To Tribunal Over Electricity Bill And Wins (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Computing Power Sets Record As Over 100K New Miners Go Online (#GotBitcoin?)

Walmart Coin And Libra Perform Major Public Relations For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Judge Says Buying Bitcoin Via Credit Card Not Necessarily A Cash Advance (#GotBitcoin?)

Poll: If You’re A Stockowner Or Crypto-Currency Holder. What Will You Do When The Recession Comes?

1 In 5 Crypto Holders Are Women, New Report Reveals (#GotBitcoin?)

Beating Bakkt, Ledgerx Is First To Launch ‘Physical’ Bitcoin Futures In Us (#GotBitcoin?)

Facebook Warns Investors That Libra Stablecoin May Never Launch (#GotBitcoin?)

Government Money Printing Is ‘Rocket Fuel’ For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin-Friendly Square Cash App Stock Price Up 56% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Safeway Shoppers Can Now Get Bitcoin Back As Change At 894 US Stores (#GotBitcoin?)

TD Ameritrade CEO: There’s ‘Heightened Interest Again’ With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Venezuela Sets New Bitcoin Volume Record Thanks To 10,000,000% Inflation (#GotBitcoin?)

Newegg Adds Bitcoin Payment Option To 73 More Countries (#GotBitcoin?)

China’s Schizophrenic Relationship With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

More Companies Build Products Around Crypto Hardware Wallets (#GotBitcoin?)

Bakkt Is Scheduled To Start Testing Its Bitcoin Futures Contracts Today (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Network Now 8 Times More Powerful Than It Was At $20K Price (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Exchange BitMEX Under Investigation By CFTC: Bloomberg (#GotBitcoin?)

“Bitcoin An ‘Unstoppable Force,” Says US Congressman At Crypto Hearing (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Network Is Moving $3 Billion Daily, Up 210% Since April (#GotBitcoin?)

Cryptocurrency Startups Get Partial Green Light From Washington

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee: Bitcoin Pullback Is Healthy, Fewer Searches Аre Good (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Lightning Nodes Are Snatching Funds From Bad Actors (#GotBitcoin?)

The Provident Bank Now Offers Deposit Services For Crypto-Related Entities (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Could Help Stop News Censorship From Space (#GotBitcoin?)

US Sanctions On Iran Crypto Mining — Inevitable Or Impossible? (#GotBitcoin?)

US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)

EU Central Bank Won’t Add Bitcoin To Reserves — Says It’s Not A Currency (#GotBitcoin?)

The Miami Dolphins Now Accept Bitcoin And Litecoin Crypt-Currency Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Bashes Bitcoin And Alt-Right Is Mad As Hell (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sachs Ramps Up Development Of New Secret Crypto Project (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain And AI Bond, Explained (#GotBitcoin?)

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust Outperformed Indexes In First Half Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

XRP Is The Worst Performing Major Crypto Of 2019 (GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Back Near $12K As BTC Shorters Lose $44 Million In One Morning (#GotBitcoin?)

As Deutsche Bank Axes 18K Jobs, Bitcoin Offers A ‘Plan ฿”: VanEck Exec (#GotBitcoin?)

Argentina Drives Global LocalBitcoins Volume To Highest Since November (#GotBitcoin?)

‘I Would Buy’ Bitcoin If Growth Continues — Investment Legend Mobius (#GotBitcoin?)

Lawmakers Push For New Bitcoin Rules (#GotBitcoin?)

Facebook’s Libra Is Bad For African Americans (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Firm Charity Announces Alliance To Support Feminine Health (#GotBitcoin?)

Canadian Startup Wants To Upgrade Millions Of ATMs To Sell Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Says US ‘Should Match’ China’s Money Printing Game (#GotBitcoin?)

Casa Launches Lightning Node Mobile App For Bitcoin Newbies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Rally Fuels Market In Crypto Derivatives (#GotBitcoin?)

World’s First Zero-Fiat ‘Bitcoin Bond’ Now Available On Bloomberg Terminal (#GotBitcoin?)

Buying Bitcoin Has Been Profitable 98.2% Of The Days Since Creation (#GotBitcoin?)

Another Crypto Exchange Receives License For Crypto Futures

From ‘Ponzi’ To ‘We’re Working On It’ — BIS Chief Reverses Stance On Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

These Are The Cities Googling ‘Bitcoin’ As Interest Hits 17-Month High (#GotBitcoin?)

Venezuelan Explains How Bitcoin Saves His Family (#GotBitcoin?)

Quantum Computing Vs. Blockchain: Impact On Cryptography

This Fund Is Riding Bitcoin To Top (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Surge Leaves Smaller Digital Currencies In The Dust (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exchange Hits $1 Trillion In Trading Volume (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Breaks $200 Billion Market Cap For The First Time In 17 Months (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Make State Tax Payments In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Religious Organizations Make Ideal Places To Mine Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sacs And JP Morgan Chase Finally Concede To Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Heading For Fifth Month Of Gains Despite Price Correction (#GotBitcoin?)

Breez Reveals Lightning-Powered Bitcoin Payments App For IPhone (#GotBitcoin?)

Big Four Auditing Firm PwC Releases Cryptocurrency Auditing Software (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon-Owned Twitch Quietly Brings Back Bitcoin Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

JPMorgan Will Pilot ‘JPM Coin’ Stablecoin By End Of 2019: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Is There A Big Short In Bitcoin? (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase Hit With Outage As Bitcoin Price Drops $1.8K In 15 Minutes

Samourai Wallet Releases Privacy-Enhancing CoinJoin Feature (#GotBitcoin?)

There Are Now More Than 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs Around The World (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Get Bitcoin Rewards When Booking At Hotels.Com (#GotBitcoin?)

North America’s Largest Solar Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming To California (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin On Track For Best Second Quarter Price Gain On Record (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Hash Rate Climbs To New Record High Boosting Network Security (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exceeds 1Million Active Addresses While Coinbase Custodies $1.3B In Assets

Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)

Zebpay Becomes First Exchange To Add Lightning Payments For All Users (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase’s New Customer Incentive: Interest Payments, With A Crypto Twist (#GotBitcoin?)

The Best Bitcoin Debit (Cashback) Cards Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Real Estate Brokerages Now Accepting Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Ernst & Young Introduces Tax Tool For Reporting Cryptocurrencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Recession Is Looming, or Not. Here’s How To Know (#GotBitcoin?)

How Will Bitcoin Behave During A Recession? (#GotBitcoin?)

Many U.S. Financial Officers Think a Recession Will Hit Next Year (#GotBitcoin?)

Definite Signs of An Imminent Recession (#GotBitcoin?)

What A Recession Could Mean for Women’s Unemployment (#GotBitcoin?)

Investors Run Out of Options As Bitcoin, Stocks, Bonds, Oil Cave To Recession Fears (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Is Looking To Reduce “Marcus” Lending Goal On Credit (Recession) Caution (#GotBitcoin?)

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