Illustrating Your Recovery: The Power of Art Therapy for Mental Health
Of all the strange mysteries of the human brain, perhaps the most frustrating one is how difficult it is to describe what is actually happening in there. Even the most eloquent among us would be hard-pressed to describe the connection between thought and action, even (especially) for something as simple (and complicated) as moving your fingers across a keyboard. How do you explain the words that are forming, often seemingly unbidden, and how they somehow translate to a nearly-autonomous action of moving your fingers to the right spot? Or try to describe, if you will, how you “tell” yourself to breathe. You don’t actually think about the complicated biological mechanisms your lungs undergo to take in oxygen–it just sort of happens.
This intense complexity, and this difficulty of language, is hard enough when describing mundane things that happen every single day. It is much harder with a mental disorder complicating matters. Trying to verbalize what is wrong, and what is going on in your brain when you have neurochemical and psychological disorders can be, for some, impossible. But not having the words doesn’t mean that treatment and recovery are out of reach. Art therapy, handled by trained doctors and staff, has shown itself to be an incredible way to unlock and examine what is going on in the human mind, by altering our ideas of what communication really is.
What Is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is, simply, the act of creating art in order to improve someone’s mental health. Anyone can benefit from this, however, it is more commonly used for those suffering from mental disorders, as a chance to express themselves in ways they might not otherwise have been able to accomplish.
Most art therapy involves visual arts–painting, sculpting, photography, drawing. Patients are encouraged to create whatever is in their head. The trick is that they aren’t doing it to impress anyone. They aren’t trying to create high art. Instead, they are doing it as a way to release what is inside them, to attempt to recreate the feelings that they have in ways that words by themselves couldn’t do.
Words, as we’ve mentioned, are often hard for people to use when talking about the inner workings of their mind, and even when they find the words, they are often not up to the task of finding the roots of and reasons for their suffering. There’s a reason why art works where words cannot.
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Evolution: Why Art Therapy Can Work For Patients
Humans are inherently verbal creatures. The complicated wiring of our brain is due in part to the reinforcing nature of language–we evolved a little language, our brain grew; we evolved more, our brain grew again, and so on. More than anything, language defines us as a species.
However, language is a fairly recent development–which could be one of the reasons why we have such trouble describing the ancient processes of breathing or moving our arms. Those abilities existed long before we had the power to even think about them. This leaves language, for many, unable to meet the task of self-description.
But before language, we were visual creatures. We communicated nonverbally. We saw things, and had representations of objects and memories in our brain; as do most animals. We may not have been able to even give them names, but they existed. Art therapy, at its best, can bring that out. It is a way to get back into the depths of our consciousness by expressing the things that can’t be named, and that are blocked by trauma, depression, or any of a number of mental health disorders.
Art therapy may not work for everyone, nor is it needed by everyone. But don’t think that because regular verbal therapy isn’t working for you that it is time to give up. We are all wired differently, and the pain that we feel is in different places. A compassionate residential clinic that takes the time to understand your needswill be able to find the right combination of therapies for you. Whether your mental disorder comes from internal problems or external stimuli, the answer is somewhere inside that magnificent and maddening organ, your brain. Together, we can find how to bring it out.
At Bridges to Recovery, we offer art therapy as part of our clients’ healing experience. Here, you will receive compassionate and expert care at one of our two comforting and welcoming residential facilities. The road to recovery starts here–contact us today to take that first step.