Exploring the Therapeutic Benefits of Art Making

Engaging in art-making can promote relaxation, reduce stress, and increase mindfulness. It can also enhance self-esteem, foster personal insight, and support emotional healing.

Many of us try to ignore our emotions; they can be uncomfortable reminders of how needy and imperfect we are. But paying attention to what our emotions are trying to tell us gives us valuable insight into where we are not whole. It gives us a chance to rebalance our lives

Philosopher Alain de Botton in his book “Art as Therapy,” says that “we are not transparent to ourselves.” Art can be a valuable tool to self-knowledge. He explains that the act of creating art can be a valuable way to cope with emotions and that the process of making art allows us to externalize our feelings, thoughts, and experiences in a tangible form. This creative expression can serve as a cathartic outlet, helping us process and communicate messier emotions like anger, envy, loneliness and grief that might be difficult to articulate through words alone.

Some artists use their personal psychological struggles in creating art.  Louise Bourgeois, a French-American artist, used a variety of symbols and motifs such as spiders, cells, doors and cages, text and words, mended fabric in her artworks to explore themes of trauma, anxiety, sexuality and the complexity of human emotions. Bourgeois’ choice of symbols was deeply personal and often drew from her own experiences, childhood memories, and emotional responses. By incorporating these symbols into her artworks, she created a visual language that allowed her to communicate her psychological struggles, inviting viewers to engage with their own emotions and experiences in response.

Art therapy as a recognized discipline started gaining speed in the 1960’s with formal training programs and professional associations legitimizing art therapy as a field.

Art therapy teachers use creative activities to help children express and manage their emotions in a supportive and non-verbal way. Some of the ways they may approach art and emotions is through creating a safe, non judgmental space, asking open ended questions to encourage children to explore emotions,  and encouraging them to use color, shapes, lines and textures to represent their emotions.

By engaging in the creative process children can develop greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence while also building important coping skills that can benefit them throughout their lives.

The Milton Art Center will be offering a class, Art & Emotions for children ages 5-10 taught by Katherine Jordan, “KJ,” an artist, art therapist and LMHC, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, on Saturdays, starting in September. KJ, who works as a therapist at Verge Therapy on Boulevard Street in East Milton, notes that “I’m not going to be a therapist, I’m going to be a teacher of emotions and emotional expression, using materials to access feelings in a way that kids can understand that they can learn to manage their own feelings. This is not therapy but there may be a therapeutic component for some children,” explained KJ.