19 Oct A Non-Traditional Approach: The Arts and Mental Health
Has there ever been a moment when you hear a song and it sums up that particular moment perfectly? Maybe you’ve connected to a song so much that you just had to get up and move. Possibly you’ve been painting and had chills go through your body? The beat of a drum, a specific color, a forgotten photograph, the lyrics of a song—our reaction to all of these things can tell us something about ourselves if we tune into them and listen.
In some of our most intense moments of life, both good and bad, words can be hard to find. It may be too much, too intense, scary or make it too real to say it out loud. Or maybe the words are not enough for us to express ourselves and what we are feeling. When words escape, the creative arts can help us find our voice.
The Connection Between Art and Mental Health
The creative arts is used as a non-traditional, evidence-based therapeutic practice. Creative arts therapies are used to address mental health issues, substance use, trauma and complex societal issues. They are a way to allow people to go outside the box of cognitive therapies and explore their emotions and experiences in a different way.
Creative arts therapies tap into the right side of the brain, which controls a person’s creativity, whereas the cognitive therapies tap into the left side of the brain, which controls a person’s logical reasoning. The right side of the brain is where our emotions, our senses and our memories live. By using creative arts in the therapy room, it offers up another perspective and can give us more information about what we are experiencing. This applies to processing through emotions, life transitions, a traumatic experience, struggles with anxiety and depression, etc. Sometimes using a creative therapy technique can unlock something we’ve had within we didn’t even know or remember was there. It allows us to break into a whole new realm that talk therapy alone may not be able to reach.
What Do Creative Arts Therapies Look Like?
The most common creative arts therapy process that people think of is Art Therapy which uses visual and symbolic expression to process experiences and emotions. Projects may include painting, drawing, or pottery. Music Therapy is another common process that utilizes different music genres, instruments and styles of music. These sessions may look like a drum circle exercise or creating a song to explore and process a specific experience. The process of Dance/Movement Therapy indicates that nonverbal movement is a language used to connect the mind, body, and spirit. In Dance and Movement Therapy movement can be used to express an emotion and the response of the therapist would be to mirror that movement to create a sense of understanding and processing through that emotion together. Drama Therapy is both active and experiential and uses techniques including but not limited to: storytelling, role playing, projection techniques, enactment and improvisation. And finally, one of the newer practices is Poetry Therapy which creates a narrative, journal entry, lyric, or poem through the use of imagery, symbolism, metaphor, and storytelling.
At CHRIS 180 Counseling Centers, you will find art therapy projects gracing the walls of the Gwinnett office, a collaborative mural at the Atlanta office and designated Art Therapy rooms at several locations including the DeKalb office. Our Drop-In Center is host to a music recording studio that staff and clients can access by appointment.
If you’re interested in art therapy but you aren’t sure if you are creative enough, that is OK! You don’t have to be a skilled artist or musician or dancer to be able to benefit from any of these creative arts therapies. The focus is not on the perfect product, but about the process and the journey to healing.
Samantha Muntz, MA, APC* is the Operations Manager of CHRIS Counseling Center – Dekalb