Thursday, November 11, 2010

Everyone is an Artist

Art therapy is one of my preferred ways of working with clients. Almost everyone enjoys it, and it never fails to provide me with new insights about a client and how I can fine-tune our work together. It is often fun for the client and for me, and is a great way to strengthen our bond. Sometimes the drawing "assignment" will help a client realize that they are holding onto negative relationships or thought patterns.  Many times clients are able to not only identify that they are "stuck", but are also able to figure out what they need to do to move past these challenges. 

One common misconception about art therapy is that people need art "skills" to make therapy effective. This is absolutely not true. In fact, whether the end result is a few stick figures, a swath of color, or a more complex drawing, clients have equally powerful insights into what their art work is suggesting to them.

The creation of a 10 year-old client
Another misconception about art therapy is that the therapist will "interpret" the client's work, and proceed to tell the client what it means. Far more helpful is when clients tell me what their drawing means to them. 

Although I have already gotten to know a client through talk therapy by the time I introduce art therapy, I still have a lot to learn. Talk therapy primarily engages the left side of the brain. In most people, and in Western culture, the left brain is dominant, and focuses on  logic, reasoning, and details. We have difficulty accessing all of our wishes and true feelings by talking. Activities that involve the right hemisphere of the brain, such as art therapy, help people access imagination, big picture thinking, and creativity. Working in right brain mode helps clients break out of their everyday way of thinking. It is the powerful combination of insights from both sides of the brain  that can lead to faster healing and growth.

Be well,

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