Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
The creative process involved in expressing oneself artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviours and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness. You don’t need to be talented or an artist to receive the benefits.
Art therapy can achieve different things for different people. It can be used for counselling, healing, treatment, rehabilitation, psychotherapy, and in a broad sense, provide the individual with a deeper understanding of him or herself.
The British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) defines Art Therapy as “a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication. Within this context, art is not used as a diagnostic tool but as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing.
Art therapists work with children, young people, adults and the elderly. Clients may have a wide range of difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses. These include emotional, behavioural or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, life-limiting conditions, neurological conditions and physical illnesses. Art therapy is provided in groups or individually, depending on clients’ needs.”
BAAT goes on to say that art therapy “is not a recreational activity or an art lesson, although the sessions can be enjoyable. Clients do not need to have any previous experience or expertise in art.” However, in addition to our therapeutic work, hArt also uses art in a recreational way, particularly as part of our Open Days, to provide as many people as possible with opportunities to find out more about us and to encourage involvement with our work.
Supporting future Art Therapists
In order to qualify as Art Psychotherapists, BA graduates need to complete 1,500 volunteer hours working with client groups before they can progress to their MA. This is a huge commitment in terms of time, energy and financial resources, and can take up to seven years to complete.
hArt is always pleased to help aspiring art therapists to find volunteer placements where possible.
One such example is Alexandra Jordan, who approached hArt in the summer of 2016 and offered her volunteer support. She was a welcome addition to the team, dedicated, committed, hard working and really enthusiastic about her voluntary work, and we were then able to introduce her to several organisations.
Profile: Alexandra Jordan
I am an aspiring Art Psychotherapist, a graduate Textile Design artist, using my own creative practice, ‘Alexandra Jordan Design’, to explore the therapeutic benefits that creativity can bring about. I work with individuals with mental health issues, sustained brain injuries, learning disabilities and dementia.
Solent Mind. I deliver a program of art sessions on a weekly basis to a group of adults with mental health issues. The sessions are presented with the aim of the creative art process being therapeutic and enjoyable. We explore the art history of artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Wassily Kandinky and Piet Mondrian and produce art work in response. I have learnt much about how to present to a group and how to mediate situations and encourage those who are unsure or not engaged in the session.
The Minstead Trust. The aim of The Minstead Trust is that ‘adults with learning disabilities are able to achieve greater independence, lead fulfilled lives and live as full citizens in our society’. I run my own art sessions and support other members of staff and service users. My days can vary hugely, working in a wood-workshop, a ceramics studio or the Sanctum (the art studio) directly with service users. Often challenging but always enjoyable, this position allows me to deepen my understanding of learning disabilities and spread awareness. It’s an honour to work alongside the team at Minstead and to spend time with the fantastic service users.
Royal Hampshire County Hospital (dementia ward.) Art with Individuals with Dementia in a clinical setting. This came about after a chance meeting with a trainee Music Therapist. Both music and art are disciplines that have been widely reported to bring individuals “back to themselves”, perhaps awakening memories previously forgotten. We combine the use of both these disciplines to create a time where individuals can create and be in a space that does not focus on any medical issues they may have. I aim to create situations where individuals feel they are being listened to and that they have something to say, with music and art often leading to stimulating conversations. Each session is loosely based on the ‘composition’ paintings of Abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky. At the start of each session I will ask individuals for their favourite musical artist or genre and then suggest we ‘compose the music on to our page’, this has had interesting results with Dolly Parton and marching band music being used as inspiration!
Headway. At Headway I teach a two-hour art class once a week to service users who have experienced brain injuries, and volunteer for the remaining hours of the day. We look at Art History and explore how we can create work inspired by different movements such as Impressionism, various styles of drawing – such as still life – and experiment with different media including paint, clay and collage. I am involved in setting up exhibitions of the service users’ work and organising gallery trips to inspire individuals’ creativity. The class is aimed to provide therapeutic and individual development of artistic style. I very much enjoy my time here as there is a strong, supportive work team with fantastic training opportunities and it is amazing to see service users become more confident in their artistic abilities.
My work with Headway and The Minstead Trust only came about because of my time with hArt. They truly have given me the inspiration to get involved with the other charities and keep working and pushing for what I want to achieve!