In general, everybody loves some kind of art form, whether it be music, visual art, drama or dance. And while most of us love consuming art, we may not have considered ourselves qualified to make art. No matter your talent level, however, more and more studies are showing the benefits of creative activities on our overall wellbeing. Participating in creative and performing arts has proven benefits on the mental capacities of humans as well as particular healing properties for those suffering from an illness. From young children who are developing cognitive abilities to those who suffer from depression, art therapy has powerful positive consequences for your mental and physical health. By utilizing art alongside traditional therapies and medications, health professionals have also seen improved healing among patients with chronic diseases. This holistic approach to healthcare is making huge advances and is something that can benefit people of all ages and health levels. Here are three examples of how art therapy is making groundbreaking advances in health.
For those who suffer from alcohol or drug addiction, there is not always a clear recovery method that works for everyone. As a way to find alternative therapies for addicts in recovery, psychiatrist Jacob Moreno developed what is known as psychodrama therapy in the 1930’s. Psychodrama therapy utilizes facilitated drama and role playing scenarios in order to creatively work through internal conflict. According to the Ocean Breeze Recovery website, a trained psychiatrist will play the director while members of a therapy group act as the protagonist, auxiliary characters, and audience members. First the director will work with the group to choose a theme, usually related in some way to addiction. Next the theme will be acted out by chosen participants. Finally, the group reflects on how this theme or the story portrayed related to his or her own life. This process allows recovering addicts a creative outlet to work through their problems and reflect in a nontraditional way. For many in recovery, this methodology has helped to improve their inter and intra-personal communication and coping skills.
Music Therapy for the Elderly
Studies have shown that elderly individuals who participate in music-related activities have better all-around physical and mental health. In one study, a choral group made up of adults over the age of 65 in Washington, D.C. was studied against a comparison group who did not participate in musical activities. The results showed that those in the chorale group used less medication, had fewer visits to the doctor, and fell less than those in the comparison group. In addition, studies have shown an increase in mental agility as one age when he or she participates in musical activities. This includes singing, playing an instrument, or participating in some sort of art therapy group. Many doctors have now incorporated formal music therapy into the treatment of elderly people in order to boost their mood and mental functioning as they age.
Art Therapy for Victims of Domestic Violence and Trauma
Art therapy is a technic which is being increasingly being used for patients who have experienced some form of trauma. Victims of domestic violence and other traumatic events often have trouble expressing their emotions in words. This is why psychiatrists are utilizing art to help patients express themselves in nonverbal ways. Often art therapy is used in group settings toward the beginning of the therapy process. Using visual art is a great way to ease participants into the conversation in a nonintrusive way, which promotes a sense of safety among patients. Generally, a psychiatrist will provide supplies and give patients a chance to express themselves with what has been provided. Often this is an open-ended invitation though sometimes particular prompts are provided. After, participants are invited to share their art and speak about the feelings behind it. This helps victims of domestic violence and other traumatic experiences cope with painful memories and encourages emotional stabilization.
While these examples provide specific instances of art therapy as a way to improve health, each can be used by any individual to increase overall wellbeing. Studies continue to show the benefit of art as a way to promote holistic health. Similar to meditation or exercise, incorporating some sort of creativity into your daily routine will improve your mood, mental agility, and ability to process events in your life. No matter what your interest, it is clear that getting involved in the arts is something which will have long-lasting positive benefits for your health.