Art therapists believe that through creative expression and by evoking one’s imaginative abilities a person can live a greater life of physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Depending on the patient’s strengths and interests, certain art therapies may include any combination of dance, drama, music, writing, embroidery, and the visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpting and photography).
Through these expressive mediums it has been shown that patients become better at reducing stress, managing behavior, developing interpersonal relationships, increasing self-esteem and self-awareness, improving problem-solving and other cognitive faculties, as well as achieving insight.
The arts have probably been used as a source of healing ever since they have come into existence; but art therapy did not emerge as a distinct profession until the 1940s where psychotherapists began to take interest in the creative output of those with mental illnesses (such as the famous Mexican artist Martin Ramirez who was diagnosed with schizophrenia) as well as those on psychedelic drugs (such as this government-mandated study on LSD).
Recently there has been a new Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) program at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany which includes art therapy techniques mixed with yoga, anger management, cognitive processing therapy and other treatments.
More amazingly, PBS’ Wide Angle, Focal Point documentary did a segment on how art therapy has even been used to reform terrorists (out of over 200 patients who have completed the program only 5% have relapsed!):
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