Making art or being creative in itself can be therapeutic as many artists will tell you. What they don’t tell you is that you don’t have to be an artist to benefit.

Just by dropping down into doing something creative will help relieve tension and stress and help reduce anxiety. It could be cooking or gardening or writing poetry but by far the easiest form of creativity is art making.

There are a number of different ways that art becomes therapy. If you go to an art therapist for an individual session, you will probably do a bit of talking, some drawing or creating and then spend time looking at your art work to find the meaning or wisdom that it contains. It can be a very powerful way to explore things that you don’t really have the words to talk about or that you are a bit unclear about. Often an art therapist will get you to close your eyes before you start and talk you through a visualization to help you imagine what you want to draw or paint or even just to get in touch with the feelings that are going on in your body. This helps you to become present to yourself and focus.

Doing Art as Therapy is a very effective form of therapy especially in a group setting. For 3 and a half  years I have ran a weekly group for people living with mental illness. They came together to make art and in October each year we put on an exhibition of their work. The emphasis in this group was to create a safe and supportive place where they could come and explore their creativity. The hidden benefits were the friendships and relationships that built. This is significant because people with mental illness are often very socially isolated. I also noticed their self confidence and self esteem grow because of the group experience.

I now work with kids who are on the Autism Spectrum. Some of them have an amazing ability to express themselves in the language of art. This does not mean that they are all great artists or even good artists but they have the courage to give it a try. Their art is helping us to understand more about what their world is like. It feels like we find a common ground when we make art together.