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The Power of Art Therapy

Art has been my personal escape when I’m feeling out of control, especially as I was growing up. I was introduced to watercolor painting only a year ago, and since then it has been the most expressive medium I have found. Watercolor painting has allowed me to express feelings I can’t put into words, as well as feelings that I have no desire to put words to.

According to Hoffman, there are three main functions of art therapy: the first is to “enable detachment from the problems, relaxation, and rest.” Having an activity set as your go-to can help keep the mind busy and productive in times of stress. The second function is referred to as educational. The process of creativity helps to foster a more grounded sense of self meaning, so you can get more in touch with your feelings through creative pathways. This can be a journey all on its own, as focusing on one’s self can be difficult. But we can learn who we are by doing so. The third objective of art therapy, the corrective function, is to, “transform harmful mechanisms, causing mainly negative self-image and relations with others, into valuable ones.” For me, I can achieve this through watercolors. However, there are different avenues in which one can explore which art is their best expressive medium.

Common forms of art therapy include: poetry, creative writing, dancing, and music. The possibilities are truly endless. “Artistic expression is spontaneous.” I wanted to bring attention to this quote. It is short and sweet, but holds a lot of value. Anyone can participate in art and they can do so at any time and pace. No one person can define what is and what is not art, so don’t feel intimidated!

So, why is it important to me? I am still in the process of accepting my trauma and art therapy is another helpful tool in my toolbox to start the healing. Painting lets me work through my pain in a healthy way, without having to relive the details. While talk therapy is helpful, sometimes I simply do not know how to express myself effectively through words. Creating a piece of art not only helps me to de-stress and unplug, it also gets a dialog started for me. I can talk more easily about my experience if I am explaining my artistic choices in a piece of art and how it relates to traumatic events in life. For me, my art almost acts as a catalyst for conversations between myself and others. I can enhance my healing process through talk therapy more fluidly when I have already painted out my emotions. Art is not an escape for me, but rather an engagement tool for my mind. I am grounded because of art and I am no longer trying to escape myself.