Art therapy pays off well

Art therapy

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is one of the creative therapies. It is based on the knowledge that creating pictures and other artistic activities can have a healing effect.

Art therapy is a relatively young discipline. It is now used not only in psychosomatic or psychiatric clinics, but also, for example, in old people's homes or special needs schools.

Art therapy is not about creating works of art, but about getting access to one's inner world. In art therapy, the picture or sculpture becomes a mirror of the soul.

Art therapy is based on different disciplines. Depending on the training institute, it includes, for example, cognitive-behavioral, depth psychological, anthropological or systemic approaches. In depth psychology, art therapy is sometimes referred to as design or painting therapy. However, it should not be confused with Gestalt therapy, which is an independent form of psychotherapy with a humanistic approach.

Although art therapy is a very popular therapy in many clinics and also on an outpatient basis, the profession of art therapist is not officially recognized. This means that the training institutes for art therapy can determine the admission requirements themselves.

As a rule, the costs for art therapy are not covered by the health insurers. They are only worn if the therapy is carried out in a clinic as part of a therapy concept. In most cases it is offered as group therapy. But it can also take place in the form of individual therapy.

When do you do art therapy?

Art therapy is used in a great many areas. It is also suitable for children and for the elderly to treat mental disorders or to support physical illnesses.

Art therapy enables the patient to express themselves without words. Therefore it is also suitable for people with dementia or intellectual disabilities.

People who have had little or no contact with art can also benefit from art therapy. However, art therapy only makes sense if the patient can get involved. Another form of therapy may be more suitable for people who are highly inhibited and who are afraid of failure and do not want to pick up a brush. However, overcoming these fears through art therapy would already be a therapeutic success.

What do you do in art therapy?

Important goals in art therapy are that the patient becomes creatively active himself and gets to know himself better. As a prerequisite for this, the patient must be able to try things out freely. The works that arise in art therapy are therefore not assessed. The patient should express himself free of conventions and without fear of making mistakes.

Creativity knows no limits. Various techniques and materials are used in art therapy. In the classic sense, you can paint pictures with a brush, pen or your hands. But clay, stone, wood and many other materials are also used for design.

Relationship building

As in any therapy, a trusting relationship between therapist and patient must first be established. A good relationship makes a significant contribution to a successful course of therapy.

Problem detection

The advantage of art therapy is that internal states can initially be expressed without words. Nevertheless, the conversation between the art therapist and the patient plays an important role.

The picture or the sculpture can always be viewed from new perspectives and creates distance from the problems. In art therapy, the art objects are neither evaluated nor interpreted. The art therapist helps the patient to understand his pictures or sculptures better.

First, the art therapist explains without judgment what he sees in the picture or in the sculpture. In group therapy, participants also talk to each other about what they perceive in each other's works of art.

In a one-on-one conversation, the therapist explores the meaning of the work by asking the patient about his or her feelings: What feelings or thoughts arose during the creation? What do you like about the work of art? What does the patient want to change? The patient can immerse himself deeply in his inner world, broaden his perspective and receive new ideas.

Problem solving

Art therapy should not only help the patient to recognize problems, but also to cope with them. Art therapy uses techniques from depth psychology, behavioral therapy or other procedures.

In order to find new ways of coping, the art therapist does not only use conversation, but also work with works of art. Often the patients already feel the possibility of being able to express themselves in color and shape as a relief.

In every picture there are not only problems, but also possibilities for progress and solutions. Working out these in a therapeutic conversation is the art of art therapy. The patient can already make an initial change in the pictures or sculptures. For example, he can make changes to his work, change colors and shapes, and add symbols.

Art therapy offers a wide range of possibilities. Due to the many different methods and materials, almost every patient finds a creative expression that suits them. The art therapist also encourages the patient to try out new or unfamiliar colors, materials or design methods. Breaking new ground strengthens the patient's problem-solving skills.

What are the risks of art therapy?

The art therapist not only has to have a broad knowledge and skills in the artistic field. In the therapeutic context, psychotherapeutic knowledge is crucial. Art therapists who lack this knowledge can quickly overwhelm patients.

Pictures or sculptures can evoke painful memories. Especially with mental disorders, but also with dementia, an emotional overload can have negative consequences for the course of therapy. One possible consequence is that the patient's mental state worsens. A skilled art therapist will notice these changes in the patient and address the problems.

Psychotherapies - this is how they work

  • Therapy: This is what awaits you

    Do you always lie on the couch during psychotherapy? What happens with behavior therapy? And how can splashing around with paint help to solve mental problems? Read here how the various forms of therapy work and what exactly to expect. This will help you decide which one is right for you.
  • Psychoanalysis: off to the couch!

    With psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freund developed the first therapy for all types of mental illness at the end of the 19th century. And it still works today! The aim is to dive deep into the soul, to dig up what has been buried - especially from childhood. The experience can be reassessed from the position of the adult. The analyst hardly intervenes, most of all he listens. He remains out of sight during the session - at the head of the bed.
  • Oedipus complex, superego, penis envy: excuse me?

    Freud developed many exciting concepts for psychoanalysis: for example, that the drive (called the id) and the inner moral authority (the super-ego) are constantly wrestling with one another. Ideally, the adult voice, the self, has the say. It is important to strengthen this in therapy. Still seems reasonable. The strong sexual imprint that Freud proclaimed is being questioned today: the Oedipus complex or penis envy are notions that now seem rather cute.
  • Depth Psychology: The Heirs

    In the meantime, more compact depth psychological procedures have evolved from the very time-consuming psychoanalysis. You still focus on working through past experiences in order to manage mental health problems. The therapist is much more active here, the healing process progresses faster. This helps with depression, anxiety and eating disorders or sexual problems, among other things. Nobody lies down on the couch anymore.
  • Behavioral Therapy: Roll Up Your Sleeves!

    Behavioral therapy tackles mental problems in a completely different way: It is more practical. The point is to uncover and question patterns of behavior and thinking that have been developed in certain situations and, if necessary, to replace them with more favorable strategies. This requires self-perception and the willingness to practice new behaviors. Works among other things for depression, anxiety but also addictions.
  • Systemic therapy: everything is interrelated

    Everything is interrelated - that is the core of systemic therapy. The approach originally stems from family therapy, where the suspicious child often only reacts to problematic family structures. Uncovering systemic entanglements also works for couples or in entire companies. With this approach you gain amazing insights and get astonishingly effective levers for change.
  • Exposure Therapy: Don't Be Afraid of Fear!

    Fear of spiders, people or the fear of flying - anxiety disorders can be tackled with a radical remedy: exposure or exposure therapy. In doing so, the anxiety is usually increased gradually. For example, watch videos of spiders first, then look at real specimens from a safe distance until you can finally pick up the eight-legged creatures. The experience that the fear will eventually subside is internalized and it keeps shrinking. Alternatively, there is the "massed confrontation": those affected are immediately exposed to the anxiety and, for example, brought to a crowded place or an airplane. That looks brutal, but it is effective. Affected people learn immediately that ultimately nothing will happen to them in the fearful situation.
  • Music Therapy: The Power of Sounds

    Music has the power to directly influence our emotions. Music therapy uses this property to release mental blockages, but also to positively influence the course of physical illness. It is usually used as a support for other therapies. There are very different approaches: passive, in which music is played, or active, in which the patient makes music or sings himself.
  • Art Therapy: Let It Out!

    Swinging a brush or carving a stone with a hammer and chisel: With artistic design you can often better express what it looks like in you than it would be possible with words. Encapsulated anger, hatred or fear can also be ventilated in this way. A subsequent joint analysis of the images often provides astonishing insights. Art therapy is usually used alongside other therapies - for example in inpatient therapy.
  • Gestalt therapy: discover and learn

    Gestalt therapy has nothing to do with artistic design in art therapy. The design here relates to one's own being. The form of therapy contains many elements from psychotherapy, but sees the client as a self-determined being who has the ability to develop further. The therapist acts as a partner at eye level who supports the person concerned in activating resources and thus coping with their problems independently.
  • Body therapy: healing the soul through the body

    Body and mind influence each other. Therefore, mental complaints can also be improved by working on the body. Body awareness exercises, breathing exercises and methods of coping with stress help, among other things. Special exercises should also help to dissolve mental blockages.
  • Psychodrama: Clear the stage for the soul!

    In psychodrama you play the main role in your own play. For this you need other players, so this is group therapy. Difficult situations and roles that are difficult to play can be tried out and varied in a playful way. You can also slip into the skin of the other person. The feedback from the other players helps to gain further knowledge.

What do I have to consider after an art therapy?

After an art therapy session, it makes sense to let the therapy session work on you. Feelings and thoughts that arise during art therapy take some time to process.

In some cases, the patient's condition worsens after the therapy session. However, if the deterioration is only temporary, then there is nothing to worry about. Dealing with painful feelings is the first step in making positive change. You should discuss any existing fears or concerns with your art therapist.

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