Self Development

Progress in Art Therapy

I heard about art therapy only two years ago. At first I was skeptical because I knew that I had no talent in drawing or creating anything artistic and I was doubtful that I could actually express my feelings in a creative way. But after a few sessions with an art therapist, I quickly understood that it’s not about talent and how your work of art looks like. It’s about how you express it. As opposed to psychotherapy, art gives you the possibility to express emotions that are too hard to describe in words. Sometimes our feelings might be too painful and frightening to express with a loud voice. Sometimes, they are so vague, but so precise in images that words could not possibly describe how you actually feel.

Contrary to psychotherapy, art gives you the possibility to put some distance between you and your emotions. As you release and express your emotions on a piece of paper or in clay, you have the feeling that your emotions have been practically taken out of your heart and put into this work of art. Afterwards, when looking at it and talking about it, you experience a positive detachment from those emotions and are able to look at them from a different angle.

Art therapy works extremely well for children who don’t have yet the ability to express themselves verbally. It is also extremely helpful for those who think and feel in pictures. How many times do you happen to use an image in order to describe your feelings? I heard different people saying: it’s as if I have a dark smoke inside my heart, it’s as if I feel my hands are tied behind my back, it’s as if I’m drowning in a flood, it’s as if I’m standing in front of a big brick wall and I can’t get out, it’s as if I’m stuck at a bottom of a well and nobody can hear me and so on. Once we get these images, it is extremely beneficial to put them on paper, in a collage or in any material that you consider fit. Things will seem different afterwards. The release is stronger than you can imagine.

But if there is one fascinating thing about art therapy, is the fact that as opposed to psychotherapy, you can trace your progress one step at a time. In psychotherapy I think it’s harder to trace the small steps in progress because it’s hard to see yourself from the outside. But art always leaves a trace. A trace how you felt 1 month ago, 6 months ago, 1 year ago and any small improvement is splendidly recorded.

The drawing in this post is mine. One day I felt like a trapped bird, unable to escape this big weight that dragged me down and that kept me from flying. I felt abandoned, left behind and I was longing to join the other birds. Two months later, I had the same image in my head, but this time something significant had changed. The weight was much clearer now. The weight wasn’t just a weight. Now it had a face. The weight was in fact people who dragged me down, whom I couldn’t get off my back, who kept me trapped because I allow them to climb on my back. Something else had changed as well. I felt the need to draw a unique bird, a special bird with beautiful colors. I felt that the bird had become stronger and more beautiful than last time. I felt that despite the fact that I was still in the same situation, I had grown since last time. Something in me had changed. I wasn’t the same bird. I also didn’t feel the need to put another bird in the picture. I didn’t feel the need to join the others. I just wanted to escape for me. I didn’t feel left behind, I didn’t feel abandoned. I just wanted to escape. Only 4 months later after looking at my works of art, I was struck by the difference in these two drawings. I couldn’t believe that the change that I had experienced was so clearly traced on paper. When I realized that, it gave me hope and now I am sure that one day, I will be able to draw a big, beautiful bird flying free in the sky without anyone holding her down. Without any weight and any pressure. For the moment, I am patiently waiting for that day to come.

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