According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art-making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. Research in the field confirms that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to become more physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy and functional, resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, handle life adjustments, and achieve insight. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others; cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.
Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals.
Benefits of Art Therapy:
- In long term care art therapy supports residents’ motivation to thrive. Stroke sufferers who participate in art making are demonstrating significant improvements not only in their emotional and cognitive domains, but also in their activities of daily life.
- Residents with known memory and behavioral difficulties are showing increased focus, attention and decreased anxiety and depression. Art therapy is especially useful to unlock memories and enable people to communicate thoughts and feelings non-verbally.
- Aging, in itself, causes psychosocial adjustment issues for many older persons, which art therapy can uniquely address. Art therapists are specially trained to interpret symbolism in artistic self-expression. Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of art therapy in the senior population.
- In addition to the psychological and medical benefits of art therapy, patients can also improve their interpersonal and social skills, communication, and cooperation, especially within group therapy. They can gain self-esteem by learning and mastering artistic skills during art therapy sessions. Of course, the person’s improved status and abilities translate into all aspects of daily functions and interpersonal relationships.
An Open Art Studio is a program that is open to long-term care residents who are able and enjoying making art with minimal assistance. In addition to the art therapist, a volunteer and an Expressive Therapy graduate intern assist residents in their art projects.
The residents’ Art work is framed and displayed for public viewing at the Resident Art Gallery Art shows are a significant contribution to a resident’s home environment.