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Art therapy can be a powerful remedy

September 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Experts say art therapy can be a powerful remedy for mental and physical illnesses. A new type of art class is an actual therapy session. There's no talent required because it's all about the healing.

"When you start doing art and you're using a different part of your brain, and you're using both of your hands, you forget about the pain," said Art As Therapy instructor Lisa Brown.

Many of the students are dealing with pain involving difficult life issues.

"Coming to a class like this gives me an opportunity to leave my breast cancer behind -- leave it at home," said student Virginia Lamb.

"Art As Therapy is helping me deal with the death of my mother," said student Dawne Anderson.

Tonight's class is focused on making a collage. Snipping and pasting helps students express and face their inner feelings.

"It allows me to access a more subconscious part of myself. In a way you're sort of talking to your soul," said Lamb.

According to the American Art Therapy Association, using art helps enhance the physical, emotional and mental well being of students.

"It gives them a voice. Art gives them a voice that they can put into a picture," said Brown.

The pictures tell a personal story. Teresa Beyer is battling mental illness.

"I'm absolutely shocked with what has come out of the picture, more than I ever thought," said Beyer.

"It's reinforced the notion that I am in a very strong support network," said Lamb.

"Now I'm leaving feeling relieved, joy and that I can do anything that I want -- that the sky's the limit," said Anderson.

If you're not an "artsy" person, experts say there are other types of creative therapy that can have the same affect -- like dance therapy or music therapy. Both help with positive self image and both promote healing.

Web Extra Information: Healing Paint

WHAT IS ART THERAPY?

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that utilizes paint, chalk, markers and other art materials to get a better understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process. The art-making process helps individuals of all ages improve and enhance their physical, mental and emotional well being.

The American Art Therapy Association bases art therapy on the belief that the creative process and artistic self-expression helps people resolve conflicts and problems, develop personal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.

Art therapy can be used to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems and disorders; substance abuse and other addictions, family and relationship issues; abuse and domestic violence; social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness; trauma and loss; physical, cognitive, and neurological problems; and psychosocial difficulties related to medical illness.

ALTERNATIVES FOR ART THERAPY:

Not really an artsy person, but want to find a way to cope with pain? Here are a few other forms of alternative therapy:

  • Dance Therapy:

    Dance therapy uses movement to improve mental and physical well being. Dance therapy helps people with cancer achieve a variety of things, including developing a positive body image, improve self-concept and self-esteem, reduce stress and depression and encourage a sense of well being. Exercise is one of the physical benefits of dance therapy. In addition, the physical activity also increases endorphins and other bodily functions such as circulatory, respiratory, skeletal and muscular systems.


  • Music Therapy:

    This form of therapy uses music to promote healing and enhance the quality of life. Music therapy involves listening to music, creating music, singing, discussing music, in addition to guided imagery with music. Music therapists believe that rhythm is beneficial to muscles, including the heart muscle. In addition, self-expression in music therapy can reveal subconscious thoughts and feelings and be therapeutic, like psychotherapy.


  • Imagery:

    Imagery is a form of distraction in which mental exercises are designed to stimulate the mind to influence the health and well being of the body. Visualization techniques are used to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression, as well as manage pain, lower blood pressure and ease some of the side effects of chemotherapy. There are two types of imagery. One is palming, which involves placing the palms of your hands over your eyes and imagining colors a person associates with a certain feeling (i.e. calmness associates with blue). The other type is guided imagery, which allows an individual to visualize a certain goal and then imagine themselves achieving that goal.

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