Art therapy is considered to be an effective and creative brain-wise approach to various mental health problems. This therapeutic technique has justified its efficiency because it not only fosters personal growth and self-awareness but provides effective aid to people with depression, posttraumatic stress disorders and different mental problems. Interactions among patients and art therapists usually result in promising outcomes. In other words, people with different illnesses, life traumas or unpleasant challenges should practice art therapies in order to settle their problems. According to the estimations of the American Art Therapy Association, through art creation people with different life challenges find it easy to cope with stressful situations, traumatic experiences and symptoms. Art therapy, which may commonly be referred to as a creative arts therapy, motivates people to understand as well as accept emotions through creative processes and artistic expression. It is extremely important to note the fact that art therapy can be extremely life challenging to patients with different diseases, including chronic depression and schizophrenia.
Importance of Art Therapies for Adults
Taking into consideration the latest scientific investigations, different mental illnesses can be treated with the help of art therapy. Contribution of art therapy to treatment of mental disorders may be life-changing because it gives a chance to ill people to have a better and quality life. E. Perez, one of the researchers in the sphere of art therapy who has worked for almost a year with 20 people with acute mental problems, claims that patients voluntarily participated in sessions that were conducted two times per week. Paintings of Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent Van Gogh and many others contributed to development of personal visions among patients with mental disorders. According to the psychoanalytic principles, paintings of prominent artists have helped people with mental disorders project repressed feelings as well as emotions from their hearts and minds. Art therapies that involve artistic processes have the power to “return” emotions and inner feelings to life. Art therapy is rapidly becoming a more acceptable and effective way of helping patients with mental illnesses because it promotes efficient brain functioning and, consequently, results in emotional well-being of people. Art therapies assist people with mental problems in managing behaviour, reducing stress, drastically increasing self-esteem, developing interpersonal skills and, finally, increasing self-awareness. Moreover, art therapies also help patients with mental disorders address emotional problems, traumas, despair, anxieties and neurological as well as cognitive difficulties. Art therapy that may be commonly referred to either as expressive art or art psychology stimulates self-discovery and emotional growth among patients. Numerous scientific investigations prove that art therapies can cure even severe mental illnesses. Despite a few randomised trials that confirm the productivity of art therapies, many scientific studies show that art therapies, especially paintings, considerably decrease the abundance of negative symptoms. It should be stated that the German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Neurology provides information that visual art therapy is no less effective than music therapy.
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Many authors are the proponents of the idea that art therapies, including paintings and drawings, are advantageous to people with severe forms of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, many patients diagnosed with this disorder as well as various schizophrenia-like illnesses continue to suffer because of severe symptoms despite the expensive but ineffective medication. That is why visual art therapy may favour people with this disease. Art materials give the chance to therapists to explore the inner world of patients with this mental disorder. Data provided by the British Association of Art Therapies proves that visual therapy should be used together with traditional medications to increase the quality of life of patients with schizophrenia or related diseases. For example, the results of statistics state that 5 – 15% of patients who rely only on medication usually experience severe symptoms of this mental disease. Trained art therapists and art materials create safe as well as facilitating environment for people with mental problems. Regardless of vast proliferation of alternative therapies, medication is considered to be the mainstay for people with schizophrenia. Visual art therapies teach patients diagnosed with schizophrenia to renew their distorted thinking and differentiate self and non-self. People with schizophrenia are often isolated, abandoned and threatened; thus, visual art therapy stimulates social interactions and professional help. Facilitated by well-trained art therapists, visual art type of therapy motivates people to express themselves in a creative and unusual way. Because of the lack of interest, isolation and refusal of social activities and interactions, patients with schizophrenia often resist traditional medications. However, the researchers in the sphere of medicine assure that the effect of visual art therapy is unbelievable because it promotes the development of self-esteem, minimises such negative symptoms as the lack of drive and communication and, finally, lessens social and emotional withdrawal.
According to the estimations of the researchers in psychology and psychiatry, visual art is extremely effective to people with schizophrenia and related mental disorders because it helps people to create symbols to cope with ego functioning. Symbols are essential for patients diagnosed with schizophrenia because they influence such complex mental representations as fantasies, hallucinations, various symptoms and images. Visual art serves as a so-called defence mechanism that ensures a chance to persons with mental disorders, especially schizophrenia, to verbalise their emotions and inner feelings with the help of images. Therefore, visual art, compared to language, offers patients with schizophrenia effective ways of utilising preconscious as well as subconscious ideas without those complex ideas being in conscious awareness of these people. Consequently, the results of statistics prove that expressions of regression, anxiety, different sexual conflicts, fear and aggression have drastically decreased among patients who practise visual art therapies.
Art therapy influences mental disorders because it involves the main spheres of human brain. British scientists support the idea that art therapy intervention, especially drawings and paintings, effect thoughts and behaviour of people with mental disorders. The researchers emphasise that visual art therapies positively impact reconstitution or rehabilitation of physical impairments, enhancement of emotional and mental healing and, finally, promotion of stable cognitive and emotional growth.
In addition, visual art therapy is tremendously helpful for people who suffer from depression, fear and anxieties. The phrase “painting to heal” is not a myth but a reality of the present day for depressed individuals. American scientists engaged in the sphere of psychoanalysis have managed to prove that paintings and drawings have a healing power that helps depressed children, adolescents and, finally, adults. Numerous findings of nationwide surveys confirm that art therapy is one of the most effective approaches to depression treatment as it helps to reconstruct the inner state of mind with the help of images.
More than one hundred years of abundant experience proves that art therapy that involves paintings and drawings reduces symptoms of depression. Art therapy that is based on creative process has the power to unveil feelings, fears and anxieties and open them for exploration, understanding and, finally, detailed analysis. In addition, the researchers in the sphere of psychoanalysis suppose that the uncovering of problems helps clients to understand their problems. Paintings and drawings contribute to positive mood, increased confidence in personal strengths and authentic cognition. Some scientists are the proponents of the idea that visual art therapy can definitely replace traditional or, in other words, standard medical treatments. Drawings and paintings can not only detect depressive state but cure it as well. For instance, according to the results of experimental data, main signs that indicate the state of depression are hopelessness, isolation, degradation and little use of colour. Besides, the lack of details on the drawings and height of figures indicate progression of the depressive state. Professional art therapists usually discuss patients’ artworks in the process of conversation in order to analyse symptoms and find effective treatment. On the whole, the researchers engaged in the spheres of psychology and psychiatry claim that there are numerous characteristics that are usually evident in the work of depressed artists.
The most common of them are as follows:
- abundance of empty space;
- less colour;
- more restricted picture;
- disorganised drawing;
- insignificant investment of effort;
- incomplete picture;
- lack of sense;
- increasingly depressive affect;
- less affect.
Faintly sketched drawings or, in other words, drawings that usually occupy a limited space indicate that a person possesses fragile sense of self. In addition, such drawings are bright indicators of powerlessness as well as helplessness. Researchers emphasise that hollow shapes and spaces, in the majority of cases, signify the sense of embarrassment or emptiness. Such common emotions as anxiety, fear and loneliness may be expressed on the paper with the help of stereotypical images, houses, trees and nature. Inaccessible and isolated figures, bizarre colours and harsh line quality are perfect indicators of stress and anxiety. Such common features as the lack of details, location in corners, faintness of drawings, considerably increased usage of dark colours and the use of one colour in order to outline the form express symptoms of the long-term depression. At present, scientists make efforts in order to standardise art therapy measurements in order to detect evident depressive symptoms and cure them. Nowadays there are numerous effective measures that visual art therapists may use in order to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression. For example, Human Figure Drawing and Formal Elements of Art Therapy Scale are considered to be the most widespread and effective measures that are employed to detect symptoms of depression among people. Human Figure Drawing is one of the most efficient, standardised and valid scales that indicate certain personality variables.
According to the results of scientific observations, depressed patients usually draw small figures in comparison to non-depressed persons. Thus, such a simple but reliable scale as human figure drawing may directly indicate depressive symptoms. Besides, the researchers assure that Formal Elements Art Therapy is no less effective as the level of accuracy of these tests is equal to 85%. The DDS that may be commonly referred to as Diagnostic Drawing Series is, in the majority of cases, based on a series of three drawings. At the initial stage of drawing, patients are asked to make a complete picture with the help of available materials. Then, depressed persons are encouraged to draw a picture of a tree. Finally, they should decorate their picture with different lines, shapes and colours.
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Thus, the process of drawing and final picture may reveal whether a patient is depressed or not. In addition, various tools that art therapists have at their disposal may serve as direct indicators of approaches towards life problems, behaviours and attitudes towards significant events and, finally, attitudes towards the self. Experts in the sphere of psychoanalysis claim that numerous emotional indicators may reveal symptoms of depression. For instance, drawing of such features as small or oversized head, presence of teeth and monster-like expression of the figure are direct indicators of depressive symptoms. Besides, significant percentage of depressive patients subconsciously omits various parts of human body such as arms, legs, nose and many others. According to the research results, more than 30 types of drawings and paintings included into the so-called scoring system indicate different emotional disturbances of depressive patients. Therefore, taking into consideration the results of statistics, professional visual art therapists possess enough skills and knowledge in order to differentiate symptoms of major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia on the basis of drawings and paintings.
Numerous researchers claim that art therapy is considered to be a far more powerful and reliable way of treatment than traditional ways of healing in the modern world. Because of this, psychologists and psychoanalysts from different corners of the globe emphasise that art therapy, including paintings and drawings, should be extensively applied instead of traditional types of medicine. Modern scientific studies successfully prove that art therapy is a successful way of healing as well as a hope for thousands of people who suffer from depression, mental illnesses and other common diseases. Taking into account the results provided by the PACE program, approximately 65% of interviewees are strong supporters of the idea that art therapy positively impacts communication among individuals. In other words, art therapy, especially visual therapy, offers a so-called nonverbal way for people to be noticed and heard. Moreover, the results of scientific investigations provide evidence that more than 34% of patients who suffer from mental diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia and who have practised visual art therapies feel much better than people who relied on traditional ways of treatment, including medication. In addition, more than 65% of patients who suffer from depression but prefer art therapies to traditional ways of healing express more connection and support.
Moreover, numerous results of experimental investigations serve as convincing arguments that visual therapy instils hope and offers control. Many documents reported a statistically significant reduction in pain as well as tiredness among depressed patients. Such common symptom of cancer as tiredness, anxiety and, finally, fatigue may be reduced to a minimum with the help of professional visual art therapies. Restoration of mental health and increased activity levels that may be ensured by visual art therapies are tremendously important for patients who suffer from schizophrenia and other mental diseases. National Surveys of Art Therapists on the territories of Canada and America prove that art therapies, especially visual art therapies, are rapidly evolving because the amounts of patients who are ready to practise various types of art therapies has doubled since 2005.
The analyses of numerous case studies on people with an extremely diverse range of problems, including schizophrenia and mental diseases, depressive patients, prisoners, victims of posttraumatic stress disorders and people who have faced various other traumas confirm that the lengths of treatment depends not only on professionalism of visual art therapists but willingness of people to be cured with the help of visual art therapies.