In light of World Mental Health Week on the 10th of October, we take a look at Art Therapy which is about using visual art-making, drama, dance and movement to improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Susan McGregor tells us in her words how she came to understand Art Therapy which led to her Diploma.
When I experienced the creative play program as an inpatient at the children's hospital I attended, I saw how creative methods can be harnessed for healing. This had a lasting impact on me. I have always been interested in looking at things deeply too, so I have always been very curious about this aspect of art since my hospital experiences.
My Art Therapy Diploma says 'art therapist' but I see myself more as a ‘spiritual artist’, as I believe there is a very fine line between the two. Art therapy is about bringing a deeper level of experience or knowing into a physical form, for example, a sculpture, and then into conscious awareness and understanding. ‘Spiritual art’ is about exploring states of consciousness through creativity.
I chose Health and Harmony Colleges rather than a university-based course because I liked its holistic approach. Prior to that, I gained a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, focusing on social psychology and human development, and a Master of Palliative Care, focusing on paediatrics and therapeutic play. Given my early interest in art, I have had formal training in traditional art techniques as well. Having a varied background is useful as it helps me to create my own approach, so it has been a journey in itself.
The benefits of using art
It really depends on the intent and how it is approached. As you go deeper differing aspects of the artistic experience emerge. None is better than another, it really depends on what is needed at the time.
Creating art may be used as a distraction for example. This can be helpful in providing respite from stressors such as a lockdown. Going a little deeper, it can be helpful in exploring the knowing and understanding already within our subconscious. Our thinking mind can sometimes overdo things and create complexities – or sometimes it just doesn't see the obvious. By switching that off and listening to a deeper knowing, often the answer is in plain sight.
Going deeper still, we can explore, work through and develop an understanding of personal experiences that involve aspects of trauma and loss for example. It can also be harnessed through specific activities to assist with personal problems, mental health issues, bereavement and other challenges.
Art for wellbeing
Using art for wellbeing is very different from art therapy (and a good life tool to have). So simply creating art itself is generally beneficial and only costs the price of the art supplies.
Art therapy can be used in conjunction with other therapies or by itself depending on what is best for the individual. Art of course can also be a wonderful form of self-expression and a way to understand who we are on a deeper level – and if we wish, to share this with others. The creative flow state is also a very meditative experience that can help focus us in our 'now'. Many artists can harness this flow state and create works that feel very connected to something bigger than themselves, which is a wonderful experience.
You don’t have to be an ‘artist’ to benefit
I hear a lot of people say they aren't 'artistic' but I think creativity is inborn. It's more about remembering that side of ourselves. It's not about skill or 'talent'. Art isn't just painting or drawing, it can be playing with clay or Play-Doh or creating a collage with pictures cut from magazines. Painting doesn't need to use brushes, it can be exploring via finger painting.
Drawing doesn't need to look realistic - it can just be simple doodling, colour and shapes. Colouring-in is another option to start exploring through colour. Creating patterns with found natural objects like fallen leaves can be very peaceful and grounding. It's all very individual and about exploring to the depth that feels comfortable.
If what is being revealed feels upsetting or challenging then it’s best to find a therapist who works with art so each person can have the support they need to work through things successfully.
Creating art has always been important to me – as has colour. Art has helped me in many ways from simple enjoyment and distraction to reworking difficult experiences and being in a state of connection to something greater than myself. Its role in my life changes based upon the moment.
Manifesting your desires
Many people have heard of vision boards. An activity that helps people give focused intention to what they desire. Another way to do this is to draw yourself actively doing what you desire; like you are taking a photo after it has happened. Creating this type of artwork and placing it somewhere where it can be seen as a reminder can be a very powerful way to help focus on what is wanted (rather than what we don't want which everyone can do at times).
Remember it’s not just about material things like owning a car either. It can be about who you would like to develop into (e.g. a confident public speaker), for example. It really is limitless – and imagining what you desire is an important first step to achieving it in real life.
CAN CREATIVE ARTS THERAPY BE FUNDED UNDER NDIS?
Yes! Creative Arts Therapy is funded under the NDIS. It must be undertaken by a Creative Arts Therapist, registered with ANZACATA. The participant must have funding allocated for Capacity Building – Improved Daily Living Skills and it must be deemed 'reasonable and necessary. The Therapist will work with the participant to make a plan, conduct sessions in accordance with the goals of the participant and report to the NDIA on progress with the participant in reaching their goals.
If you are Plan Managed, contact us and the friendly PTC team can help you find out more.
To find out more about the World Mental Health Global Awareness Campaign visit the World Federation for Mental Health website.