I often get this question, followed by something along the lines of “that’s for people with special needs right?” It probably shouldn’t but it frustrates me. Art Therapy can be fabulous for helping people communicate in other forms than the verbal, which is great for people with special needs, but also for children, the elderly.. and frankly everyone! Nowadays we are so censored, controlled and detached from our emotions that even when confronted with a situation which should be open and honest (for example during a counselling session), we often tell the other person what we think they want to hear. We don’t often know ourselves what we are feeling, experiencing, projecting so how can we define it and truly be honest with ourselves let alone others?
This is where Art Therapy steps in…
I know because I was one of those people. Coming from a teaching background I was always in control and to add to that, being a perfectionist, it was safe to say I tried to anticipate or control my early Art Therapy experiences. I remember the moment when all that changed. I was in my first semester of studying Art Therapy when I participated in a guided meditation. Now, this experience alone was a tug of war between my head and my heart. My head wanted to control the outcome of the meditation but my heart wanted to provide me with everything I needed at that present moment. The focus of the meditation was a gift that I was to receive in a box. My head quickly jumped ahead trying to guess what would be in the box. I came up with very typical, limited ideas on what my present would be… flowers, chocolates, jewellery… boring really. But I was so surprised what actually appeared! Two hats.. hmmm ok, hats?? Not even hats I owned or would consider wearing…huh? Very unusual and totally not something that my conscious mind would have come up with. I was dumbfounded and could not explain the significance of such an image.
As Art Therapy regularly does, it surprises you then challenges you to make meaning in places you never knew existed. Because it is coming from a deep place inside you (your soul), your conscious mind can not control nor predict what is going to surface. This is exciting but terrifying all at the same time. That is why it is important to approach Art Therapy with an open heart and mind.
You may be wondering if I found the meaning of those two hats. After creating my hats in clay and participating in a meditation in which I spoke through them, I found why they had shown up to me and their meaning was so much deeper than I ever expected. Turns out they weren’t just random hats. The lesson of letting go of control and trusting what will be was so significant to me that I recall it years later. It really did change my whole perspective on the power of Art Therapy.
So, do I think that Art Therapy is just for people with special needs? Absolutely not… We all need to be assessing our mental health and wellbeing on a regular basis and taking preventative measures to ensure we are being the best version of ourselves. Everyone can benefit from therapy in this fast-paced society, our inner self is often the last thing we listen to with all the noise surrounding us. You cannot control what surfaces during Art Therapy, it is soul work and when your soul gets a chance to be heard it is going to speak loud and clear!
Til next time,