Art therapy is a practice of using visual means to access something deeper within yourself, for times when there’s no words or they just aren’t enough. I like to think of it as trying to explain a vivid dream to someone (so frustrating, right?) Art is a way of knowing, and if I showed you an image of my dream, you’d understand way more than if I tried to tell you about it. Art uses many parts of the brain, though it’s known for using the right side, where images, emotions, and intuition live. One of my many personal discoveries with art is that it bypasses the thoughts and feelings I’d normally cover up.
If you’re open and ready to see the truth, you’ll likely see it in your art.
You’ll also likely have aha moments, where your thoughts and feelings are so perfectly represented in a piece. There’s the satisfaction of being able to show and tell someone – “This! This is exactly what I feel!” Art therapy is a great treatment for working through traumatic memories and post-traumatic responses, as these memories are stored in our emotional, non-linear, sensory part of the brain, where art can access them. Metaphors and symbolism are rich in the art therapy world, and also deeply personal, which is why it’s important for you to be the expert on what your art means to you. In your time with art materials, you may become acquainted with parts of yourself you try to shut down, like anger, shame, and fear. We’ll be gentle as these parts reveal themselves and art is a safe and healthy way to express the depths of these emotions. (I’d rather scribble and tear up a piece of paper than do something destructive to myself). Many people also find that art therapy helps them “get out of their head” and find joy and relaxation in being in a state of flow. Whatever your journey looks like, know that showing up for yourself and taking time to invest in your healing is a hugely important and transformative part of the process.