Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is All Art Therapeutic?


Is all art therapeutic?

This is another question that people continually ask me. If creating art is not an activity that slows down your mind, causes you joy, allows you to lose track of time, or makes you feel settled and grounded, then no it’s not therapeutic for you. Art making is only therapeutic if it brings you into a more aware awakened state, calming down your nervous system and making you feel positive emotions. Any activity that activates positive neurons and allows you to relax is therapeutic. That could be fishing, cooking, gardening, writing, or making art.
I have worked with clients who feel stress when they try to do art. It is not a fun, relaxing, centering activity for them at all. So, it is not therapeutic at all.
But, for some people using their hands has a calming effect. Women and men throughout time have knitted, sewed, painted, practiced pottery and have found that it benefited their overall health and well being.
Kelly Lambert, author of Lifting Depression writes that:
“… when you knit a sweater or plant a garden, when you prepare a meal or simply repair a lamp, you are bathing your brain in feel-good chemicals and creating a kind of mental vitamin.”
Creating helps you feel productive and achieve mastery. By focusing your cognitive and emotional energies on accomplishing making something by hand it becomes a wonderful use for our neural networks as research has repeatedly proven.
Learning new crafts and art processes results in improvements in cognitive functioning and enhances brain plasticity. Because the brain is designed to actively respond to novelty and external enriched environments, it is forced to grow new cells and those cells are forced to make new connections. In making art, we use all our sensory organs.


This month in the studio we have been playing with knitting.

French Knitting.


Circle looms provide easy way for children to create toques.


 Knitting with thick bamboo needles. 


6 comments:

Tracy Bollinger said...

Agreed, my art journaling helped me when I was suffering though the worst back and leg pain imaginable. On good days and even some bad, I would try to focus on putting paint, etc on my journal and for a bit the pain was put in the back of my brain while I focused on something else.

The pain management doc I went to had art therapy at his clinic too. I only did his physical therapy and met with his mindfulness psychologist. It was my 2nd pt, so I decided on surgery since nothing was working naturally. I still use my art to deal with depression and ongoing pain. Nothing is at the level it was before! Just getting used to metal in my back.

karen wallace said...

Thanks for your comment. Glad that your back and leg injuries are healing.

nacherluver said...

What about art that allows you to throw paint and scratch pages and dump the "stuff" out? What about pushing through the pain and the frustration and the discomfort until you start to feel that ease, a release? I think there can be a lot of discomfort in creating and still have it be therapeutic. It gets you to the other side. It gives you a place to release pain, frustration, etc.... You can physically see the end result so it's a bit cathartic to see it in physical form and not inside. It can also end up being a beautiful thing. And if not? Well, the act of destroying the painting, poem, creation that was pain is quite gratifying as well!
What thinks ye?

karen wallace said...

I was only addressing one topic here. Art can be very useful for gaining release, creating understanding and insight, making unconscious material conscious, reframing thoughts and memories, etc. I have written many articles on all the above. Thanks for your comment.

The Creative Beast said...

Just saw this post in my feed and am very excited to see your new FAQ about Art Therapy series here! I will be going through the previous FAQ entries as you always provide great information about Art Therapy and what it entails...Can't wait to see more posts from you Karen =)

karen wallace said...

So great to hear from you!!!!! Hugs Karen

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