Arts and Healing

Dolly (not her real name) was brought by her mom in the clinic because she did not want to go to school anymore. She was transferred to another school but the same thing happened, she only attended class once. arts-healing

I recommended that she be admitted to therapy. And part of Dolly’s intervention is allowing her to join the arts activity of the students. And she loved it. Only after a couple of weeks, Dolly began to warm up and is now arts-healing exposed to her cohorts in Grade 2 and soon will become a regular student and part of the class.

And there are still many other kids in Bohol Child Head Start who were able to overcome their shyness, separation anxiety, impulsiveness and hyperactivity, and other deficits because of the power that arts bring.

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It is very heartening to see how arts become a tool for healing. And we do not need to be traumatized to understand how arts can alleviate our emotional and psychological pains. For instance, when we are emotionally troubled, many of us tend to sing or dance these troubles away. Or, I had a close friend who was able to write a really striking and beautiful letter when she and her boyfriend split.

Still many others resort to doodles, sketches, and drawings to express the content of their minds and hearts. I have a client who until now gets easily affected with bad news that she sees on tv or the internet. To help herself, what she does is write short stories about it and through the process, get a sense of control over her thoughts and emotions.

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To understand the relationship between arts and healing, we need to understand brain functioning as well. The brain is divided into two hemispheres, the left and right. It is believed that these two hemispheres have specific functions.

The left brain is moderated by words. It communicates verbally, is analytical and critical, and able only to tell us what we think and feel. On the other hand, the right brain communicates in images, is symbolic and emotional, and can tell us what we actually think and feel.

When we use words and logic, we reach out to the left brain. But the right brain responds to stimulation facilitated by images and symbols.

Therefore, what words cannot contain and express, creative therapy, like arts, can. Creative therapy is based on the fact that the creative process of art making is healing and life enhancing. It provides a creative outlet for emotions that are too painful, intense, embarrassing, or unclear to express verbally.

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Creative therapies include visual arts, may it be in 2d or 3d, dance and movement, music, poetry, drama, writing, sand play, clay, and other modalities. The advantage of arts over verbally mediated therapies is that it is absorbing and enjoyable to do. And in the process, you get to be empowered thereby increasing self-awareness and self-esteem.

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But art therapy is not art education. They are two very different things. In arts therapy, the creative process and artwork are considered in terms of their therapeutic significance rather than their artistic merit per se. It is low-skill, high sensitivity art.

Art therapy is not arts and craft. It is not product oriented but rather it is self-expressive. It is not a purely recreational activity, it is therapeutic. In other words, the significance and power of art therapy is not on the product but on the process.

So, what are you waiting for? Unleash your creativity and relish the healing and freedom that art brings.

 

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Kit Balane

Clinical Psychologist
President, Bohol Child Head Start Inc.