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What is Art Therapy?

October 02, 2019 5 min read

Art’s ability to inspire others makes it a powerful tool for healing in the form of art therapy. This type of therapy encourages healing through the process of art-making and the development of self-expression. As a treatment for everything from anxiety to substance use disorders, creative therapies use art-making as a vehicle to promote positive mental, physical, and emotional health.

Understanding Art Therapy

Tubes of paint, a white plastic container of watercolors, a paintbrush, and a multicolored skein of yarn on a yellow background
As a practice that has been used since the 1940s, using art as therapy was started by Edith Kramer and Margaret Maumbeurg. These pioneers used this version of therapy to help their clients better access to their experiences, feelings, and inner thoughts. Therapists that employ this therapy encourage clients to use free form art-making to find the meaning and insight behind their feelings and thoughts.

It is through this process that therapists help clients grow in their self-worth, self-awareness, as they find new coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress when they work with their hands to create their own art pieces. Today, creative therapies are used by psychologists, mental health professionals and in community settings like nursing homes, shelters, schools, residential facilities, and similar environments.

How Art Therapy Can Benefit You

While this therapy is often used in professional settings, anyone can tap into the power of this therapy. When we make art, we’re able to benefit from it’s healing power to instill hope and generate inspiration. The following are eight benefits anyone can experience by trying this therapy for themselves:

1. Improve Self-Management


It isn’t uncommon for us to feel as though life is out of control. Amidst all the stress and anxiety we experience from our busy schedules, it can be challenging to get a handle on all the responsibilities that we have to balance in life. However, with time, patience, practice, and the help of creative therapy, anyone can improve their self-management skills and learn to find a better balance in life.

As this form of therapy requires one to make decisions to better a work of art and focus on bringing it to completion, this practice helps to improve one’s capabilities of time management. Continuing to make art will only strengthen this ability.

2. Alleviate Depression

Multiple skeins of multicolored silk yarn sitting on a wooden shelf
While science is still exploring ways to effectively treat depression, there are several studies that show the connection between art-making and alleviating depression. Creative therapy offers anyone with depression the opportunity to use the act of creation to combat their depressive symptoms. Many people find that as they create art, they are able to put their emotions into the work rather than dwelling on their feelings or expressing the sadness in destructive ways. Whether one knits or paints, choosing to find an outlet for these emotions is an effective way to alleviate depression.

3. Improve Communication Skills


Communication can be challenging, regardless of how close we are with someone. With the help of art, we can learn to better express our emotions and thoughts. Where an individual has otherwise experienced difficulty in communicating with friends or family, this therapy will help them to feel more in tune with their emotions, giving them an outlet for self-expression that they can then use to develop better communication skills for connecting with others.

4. Address Past Trauma


One of the main goals of therapy is to address past traumas. With knit therapy and similar self-expressive techniques, one can tap into and heal these traumatic experiences that are preventing them from moving forward. Through these therapeutic art-making sessions, individuals can work with self-expression to break down related thoughts and feelings and help them understand how to overcome these traumas.

5. Reduce Stress

Multiple balls of red, orange, and blue yarn
Stress often seems inescapable in today’s world. For this reason, many people turn to unhealthy habits to try to cope with these anxieties. With the help of art-therapy, individuals are able to create new coping mechanisms for dealing with stress. Similarly, the act of creating itself will help one convert their negative energies into the creation process. By turning to art-therapy to handle one’s stress, individuals will find that they are more relaxed and able to respond to challenging situations more effectively.

6. Improve Problem-Solving Abilities


Individuals that are eager to improve their problem-solving abilities can do so through art-therapy. As the creative process requires one to develop new solutions to problems as they make art, this skill will also translate to a person’s everyday life. Actively making art will help an individual to better think on their feet, which is another excellent life skill.

7. Build Self-Esteem


Another important benefit of art-making is that it helps to build self-esteem. By focusing on creating new projects, an individual will be able to see exactly what they’re capable of. Once an art project is complete, one will feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction that will help boost their levels of self-esteem. With regular art-therapy sessions, anyone will find that they are better equipped to handle life’s challenges and various social situations.

8. Offer a Positive Distraction


Life itself can be overwhelming. In a world that is constantly demanding our attention and our energies, creative therapies offer us a way to escape. By giving into our creative urges during an art-making session, we get to take a break from the struggles of everyday life focus on being mindful in these creative moments.

This creative distraction is especially important for individuals that are in the midst of serious life challenges. With situations like overcoming substance abuse, fighting life-threatening diseases, or dealing with emotional trauma, getting a break from these all-consuming thoughts through the healing process of making art is incredibly important.

Start Healing

Have you ever used art and creativity to help you overcome or work through mental health challenges? If you're struggling, we hear you and we love you. Try thinking of a few things you can do every day that will stretch your creative muscles. You may just find it helping more than you ever imagined.

Art Therapy In a Box

Purple Darn Good Yarn Box, a set of purple ombre knitting needles and crochet hook, a multicolored cake of yarn and a knitting pattern all on a white wooden surface

Lovers of knitting or newbies that are interested in starting their artistic journey can do just that by subscribing to our Yarn of the Month Club! This subscription comes with a skein of yarn, a mystery gift, and a knit or crochet pattern to help add some regular creativity to life. Experience the wonder of fiber arts and the healing power of art therapy for yourself by subscribing today! 

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