Role of Art & Art Therapy

Role of Art & Art Therapy in the Holistic Development of Children and Psychological Healing of Clients with Emotional Issues

A brief descriptive summary of the Workshop on Art Therapy held on April 14, 2018

Art, Art classes, Painting sessions, Summer Art Classes! What are they all about? How do they help or benefit the growth and development of children at all ages?

Art can help children improve their communication skills, their social interaction and emotional and physical development.

Are art classes different from Art Therapy? Who can benefit from Art Therapy?  What activities are involved in Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is the deliberate use of art to address psychological and emotional needs. Art Therapy uses the media of art and the creative process to help in areas such as, but not limited to, fostering self-expression, creating coping skills, managing stress and strengthening a sense of self.

Art includes visual (like painting) and expressive arts (like music, clay work, poetry, dance, sand therapy and drama/theatre). Art is different from Art Therapy. Art Therapy involves the use of art for psychological counselling to treat developmental (mental or intellectual limitations), medical conditions (cancer, dementia), and resolution of unexpressed emotional conflicts. Art Therapy can also be used to manage troubled behaviors (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, self-injurious behaviors, anger issues in children), building interpersonal skills (socially shy, introvert temperament), regulating emotions in stressful situations (occupational, academic, career related areas) and to achieve insight of more troubled emotions (in abuse, loss of loved on, failure etc)

Art Therapy has several benefits.

Some of these may be physical like building strength in arms, hands and fingers (in young babies/toddlers, in those with weak hand or limb muscles) by activities like holding crayons, paint brushes, pencils.

Art Therapy also helps in sensory exploration, as a fun filled, pressure free, pleasurable activity of creating things that are colorful.

Art Therapy also helps in improving eye-hand and motor co-ordination.

For preschoolers, the creation of art maybe a big accomplishment as they enjoy the process of involving in art by representing real or imagined objects. This helps them develop their thinking process and imagination.

For school going children, Art may help in preparation or further improvement of writing skills and better motor control of the finger grasp. These children can also develop a sense of sharing, responsibility, social skills development and social interactions as they work in groups. Art also helps improve observation skills necessary for life and academics, helps them to interact or be more sensitive to nature and the surrounding environment. Art also helps them share their experiences, express or verbalize their feelings and helps them improve their self-esteem.

Art Therapy can include activities like painting, drawing, sketching, doodling or visual arts. Art Therapy can also include activities of movement or expression like music, dance, drama, role plays, and sand therapy.

Art Therapy facilitates positive change by involving in the creation of something- productivity as an achievement in depression. Art Therapy can also be used as a distraction in obsessive compulsive behaviors shifting the focus away from the obsessive compulsive behavior.

Art Therapy can also help with the ventilation of emotions that are difficult to express using words especially in conditions of anxiety, abuse, or anger/acting out in children as well as in adults.

Art Therapy thus allows an individual to get in touch with their feelings that they find difficult to express otherwise.

Art Therapy modifies the physiology and structure of the brain and leads to a more flexible, adaptable individual. The therapy works with multiple senses (vision, touch, smell, hearing) in addition to muscle movements and social interactions with others. Art Therapy can thus help to heal an individual mentally, emotionally, and physically while they build skills to cope with the pressures of life.

At our center, Manasvin’s Center for Marital and Family Therapy, we use art therapy effectively as a psychological healing method.

We have an artist (trained from Shantiniketan) who works individually and through group sessions. Art Therapy sessions are customized to the needs of each client based on inputs from a trained clinical psychologist and includes visual arts (painting, drawing, sketching) and expressive arts like Music Therapy (Guitar, Flute), Work with Clay, Sand Therapy, Role Plays, Poetry and Story writing and telling sessions.  


Aggression- Its effects on family relationships

Human emotions, both positive such as happiness, excitement, and negative such as anger, sadness can play a very significant role in relationships. At the same time, the intensity of these emotions can equally be important in deciding the healthy and unhealthy properties of the relationships.By intensity, we mean, the strength or depth of the emotional reaction one expresses towards a personal, emotional or close relationship.

Emotions, specifically anger, have the capacity to stir the persons whole being or personality at the moment of its expression. Rapid physiologic, including hormonal changes, may take place with a high adrenaline rush that increases the function of major body systems such as rapid increase in heart beat, and restless  movements of the body. If the environment or persons at the receiving end are not able to understand the intentions or reasons behind this high intense expression, a disequllibrium creating misconceptions may result.  For example, if a family member is extremely aggressive (exhibiting high intensity of anger or emotion) and the person or persons at the receiving end miss the actual intention of why he or she is aggressive, an actual damage to the relationship may result as a consequence.  The person at the receiving end may misconstrue that the “aggressive” person is trying to physically harm them while the “aggressive” person may be trying to express his anger or frustration through their behavior.  Unless both sides understand each other, a strain the emotional relationship results.

When one is in a highly emotional intense state, one loses awareness of oneself, the surroundings and the persons in the environment. Continuous state of body and mind in such a high emotionally intense state can damage the health- both physical and psychological. More over it can be very stressful to close family members leading to a strain emotional distance over a period of time.

It is very important that one understand and works towards maintaining an emotional balance to preserve harmony with relationships. When one is emotionally intense state of body and mind, one loses the ability to reason and logical capacity and may cross safe boundaries of propriety, and possibly abuse close family members. Repeated episodes of such situations can permanently damage the emotional relationship making people feel alone, depressed and vulnerable. Not only that, repeated expressions of negative emotions can themself become habitual leading to more and more such “disasters”.  The unpredictability can be very threatening to significant or close family members living under the same roof.

In order to preserve one’s relationships, it is important to be aware of the situation as a first step. Showing agression in a high emotional state can appear to be an immediate rewarding experience for the person expressing; however, it can be more damaging in the long run. The receiving person may obey or become submissive for the moment but can become increasingly resistant over time and create an increasingly negative relationship. The ability to share openly between members becomes constrained. It is important that family members become aware and are willing to work towards this.

Certain precautions can be done to avoid such events-preventing emotional outbursts, anticipating and moving away from stressors, discussing stressors with family members,  and discussions post episode with all sides willing to listen to each other, working out a balance, by finding alternate creative  expressions or expectations, or writing a diary or notes to understand and reflect, learning to express frustration or upset by discussing than showing anger. If relations are still developing a distance in spite of best personal efforts, it is always advisable to seek professional help and even undergo an anger management program. It is advisable not to take any “emotionally charged” major decisions when one in a high emotional state of aggression.