What is Art Therapy?
Make no confusion, art therapy is an echelon above simple arts and crafts. Art therapy, as defined by the American Art Therapy Association, or AATA, is a form of therapy facilitated by a professional art therapist, that supports a person’s relational and treatment goals effectively. Art therapy has many benefits for not just children, but adults as well. These benefits, according to the AATA, include improved cognitive-sensory motor function, improving self-esteem, self-awareness, gaining insight on one’s true emotions, and reaching conflict resolutions for those emotions among other things.
For the modern American adult, perhaps one of the best benefits of art therapy is its ability to deliver a sense of control, empowerment, and self-expression unique to an individual that can help them cope with feels of depression, loss, anxiety and pain. In fact, in a study published on February 2018 in “The Arts in Psychotherapy,” researchers looked at almost 200 people hospitalized due to medical issues or due to post-operation. The researchers found that patients who participated in art therapy bedside for an average of 50 minutes a day had significantly improved their moods, and lowered levels of pain and anxiety.
The good thing about art therapy, is that it does not have to be limited to drawing and painting. Several other forms, such as dancing, acting, music, and sculpting among others can still be used therapeutically. According to mind.org.uk, art therapy can include forms of art such as dance, music, and other forms of expression. These forms of expression can help heal clients by reenacting traumatic events, seeing the events unfolded, talk-regression therapy, or even just by encouraging physical exercise that has been shown to increase endorphin levels in the brain, and therefore improve depressed and anxious moods.
As an adult, finding the time to commit to self-care, meditation, talk therapy, and overall past times that improve your well-being is difficult to find. Luckily, there are creative ways to get in touch with your mental health, and also have family and friends around to support your therapeutic endeavors.
The Modern Trend of Art Parties and Art Therapy
Famous museums, such as the The Getty Center in Los Angeles, already host a multitude of events and classes combining art, discussions, and support groups, and this is just one example of many more resources for art therapy in action. If you cannot afford art therapy, or want to practice it in a smaller, more intimate group, hosting your own art therapy parties can be a great way to encourage mental health awareness in your group of friends and family. In addition, having a tight-knit therapy support group can help one cope, find different styles of practicing art, and encourage recovery through fun parties, events, and intimate gatherings. If this is something you’d be interested in, and you are in need of ideas, or you simply want to practice art therapy at home, here are 10 ways to begin your own art therapy groups, host art therapy parties, and get the most out of your journey into art for healing the mind.
1. Host a Wine and Paint Party
One of the most well-known examples of art therapy in action today is wine and painting events. In Los Angeles, California alone, daily events for wine and painting can be found on websites such as Yelp, Google, and eventbrite.com. Paint and wine parties can not only be therapeutic but also incredibly fun and easy to set up as a starter group on your own. If you prefer to host the paint and wine event at a bigger venue, to book a party, you could consider using a scheduling service such as the aforementioned Eventbrite, or use other resources such as interior designers, local bakeries and liquor stores, and small salons to provide resources and refreshments for a bigger event. This could also help spread the word for future parties throughout the community. In addition, buying from small businesses could lead to bigger savings if they allow you to buy in bulk for a discount.
For a more cozy event at home, set up a comforting environment with adequate seating, and make sure to buy enough canvases, easels, basic paint and brush supplies, and ask the party what subject they would like to paint. Perhaps even invite some shyer attendees to provide a subject of their own in order to break the ice? The choices for painting are endless, not to mention beautiful. French doors with proper lighting covered in drapes, a pair of sleeping cats, a magnificent and full fruit bowl and wheel of aging cheese, providing the subject for a great wine and paint party is almost too easy.
2. Work on a DIY Remodeling Project with Friends
As mentioned before, art therapy can involve more than drawing and painting. Any form of art that is hands-on can benefit an individual, and home improvement projects are no exception. In fact, working on a project that not only involves art but can help you stay organized, such as a remodeling project for a cabinet, office space, room or other area of your home, can have significant impacts on your mood and help you become more productive. In a study done by the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, the research found that having a cluttered area that is full of other visual stimuli, distractions, and involves stressful multi-tasking to work overloads the visual cortex and makes it more difficult for your brain to process information. This decrease in productivity and inability to concentrate in your own home can lead to increased stress, depression, and anxiety.
Any project that can help you become more organized in your daily life, such as painting and refurbishing a new cabinet, installing beautiful shelves, redoing your desk set-up, and even redoing a chain-link fence, can all help you gain the stress-free work environment important to your health. What’s great about these remodeling projects is that they can all be done either with the help of friends and family or alone. The creativity and dedication involved in these projects can also help you stick to your goals and stay organized.
3. Host a Gathering with Service or Pet Dogs
One of the essential aspects of life for those suffering from mental health issues, PTSD, or other forms of illness, is the presence of a service dog. Service dogs serve a multitude of purposes, from helping their owners navigate if they are blind to predicting seizures, aiding in other types of mobility, and also to help those people suffering from anxiety and traumatic stress disorder to identify their triggers. Pet care for these groups of people is not just a chose, or hobby, but is essential, and a great way to bond with other service dog owners.
If you or someone you know has a service dog or even would benefit from having a get together full of loving animals for an evening of relaxation, a pet gathering could be a fun idea. Not only will it give those that have service dogs, such as yourself, an additional support group, but also relieve stress, as research has shown that owners of a pet were better able to keep their blood pressure low during times of mental stress than those who did not own a pet. This is just one example of the amazing therapeutic affect dogs, cats, and pets can have on a person’s well-being. In addition, hosting an art party with the option of bringing a pet for a play date could also be a fun way to get the best of both worlds. With this option, keep in mind that pets will need to have their own special accommodations for the evening. Unfortunately, though a pet’s owner attending a party will want to have vegan meat substitutes for refreshments, more accommodations must be made to keep the pet happy and full for the party! These are small, but caring adjustments that go a long way when being a good host.
4. Plan an Outing and Use Nature for Therapy
One form of therapy that is forgotten is that of making art in nature. Famous artists such as Andy Goldsworthy have paved the way to show how sculpture, design, and intricate art can be made from the elements and be placed anywhere in nature. Utilizing sticks, leaves of different colors, rocks, balancing rocks, water, sand, the possibilities for designing art in nature are endless.
Though it’s not very well known, nature art can be one of the most powerful forms of art therapy for you or a loved one. Planning an art therapy outing with a group of friends can be as easy as finding firewood for sale, bringing packed lunches, hiking gear, setting up camp and making a day of hiking and enjoying the wilderness. Doing all of this while making art, becoming one with nature, and reaching a truly deep meditative state can all help not only as a form of art therapy but as a form of gaining insight and releasing from the stresses of everyday life. Instead of relying on herbal supplements such as Himalaya crafts, or other companies that offer organic vitamins and nutrients, you could even use this outing to find new herbs and flowers for experimenting in cooking with. The possibilities of nature and the things you will find in it are endless, and not just limited to art therapy. For nature outings, keep your options and plans with your group open, and creative.
5. Begin taking Music Lessons
Whether it’s on your own or with the help of a teacher, music therapy can be another option for learning a new skill, putting to use music in art therapy, and also gaining a valuable support group full of like-minded musicians with the same passion as you. Music therapy is widely known for of therapy now, and like art therapy, it is led by trained music therapists that specialize in calming one’s moods and relieving depression through the use of music.
It’s never too late to learn the basics of music, but the sooner you wish to start, the better. Piano, guitar, flute, clarinet, harp, even the drums are all incredibly diverse instruments, and this can be an option for someone with unique tastes and skills. Once you begin to practice music and art therapy, you can begin to perhaps perform with a group of friends in a band, play various types of music such as jazz, classical or rock music, and begin to build a close support network with fellow musicians. With children, this is also a good option to help them begin to practice and develop advance memory and muscular memory skills, in addition to helping improve in skills such as science and math, as studies have shown. Music is just one form of art therapy that can be done alone, with friends, at home, or at a show, but all the while is equally beneficial and powerful.
Do Something to Help Yourself
From painting and drinking wine to working on a do-it-yourself project, hosting a party full of puppies, planning a day filled with nature and art, or planning to be a musician and practicing among fellow talented friends, the scope of art therapy and what is considered art is as unique as it is impactful. Finding the time to practice any kind of therapy and art is sometimes impossible, but with the help of friends can be made time for. The most important thing in art therapy, or any form of self-help and recovery, is to not give up on the process and continue to practice it daily in order to get the best results. Maybe you won’t become a painter or professional musician on a matter of days, or learn interpretive dance and be open to whatever it brings up of your past. None of these matters. As long as one continues the process of art therapy, and taking advantage of all the different ways to incorporate art into their life, art therapy can help one to change their mood, mental health, well-being, and life over time.