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  • Writer's pictureMarki Sulzbach

Is Art Therapy for You?

Art therapy has been proven to have health benefits and provide psychological insights to individuals since the 1940’s. Below are just two case examples and benefits of art therapy, along with its many advantages.

I once had a teen aged client that I was seeing consistently who was struggling with anxiety and depression. She had been to group therapy before and had seen another therapist, but nothing really seemed to help. Her mother decided to bring her to me to try art therapy as an alternative to the talk therapy that she had been accustomed to, just to see if the change in method might bring about a different outcome. One of the most profound things we learned from our sessions together was that she had difficulties setting personal boundaries with those closest to her. She often allowed others to take advantage of her and this was significantly contributing to her anxiety and depression. When we discovered this, I asked her to construct a house that represented who she is. I then asked her to build a fence around this house. She was allowed to glue sticks and wooden blocks to her paper to represent her fence. Once she was done with this, we were able to process how fortified she felt the fence was, how protected she felt the house was, and what she might change to make it stronger. We were able to process weaknesses in her fence and why she built her house the way that she did. With this visual representation, we were able to discuss healthy boundaries in her life and label those boundaries on her fence. We were also able to later discuss any walls that she might have that are keeping others out. This client was able to benefit greatly from art therapy because she had a need for visual representations of her struggles and hands-on approaches to her emotional needs.

I also had a young client come into my office who was struggling with self-esteem and difficulties interacting with her peers. She was consistently sent home from school because of her disruptive behaviors in class and her mother was at the end of her rope when it came to understanding her emotional outbursts. She had recently been diagnosed with ADHD and Autism spectrum disorder and her feelings of loneliness and isolation had caused her to have some difficulty with verbalizing her feelings. Through some brief discussions in session, she revealed that one of her favorite things in the world was Yu Gi Oh. She loved the cards, playing the game, watching the TV show, everything about it! As a part of her treatment, we created Yu Gi Oh cards with all of the positive qualities that make up her as an individual. She was able to assign an attack number to her strengths and create characters that represent all of the things that make her amazing. This proved to be an excellent self-esteem boost for her, and she even added these cards to her Yu Gi Oh deck for when she played with her friends! This client was also able to create a beautiful collage of her personal strengths and artwork of her hands representing the people in her life that she holds most dear to her. Even though she was young, she was able to gain self-esteem and a perspective of who was there for her in her life through the means of art therapy.

Art therapy has the potential to:

· Increase awareness

· Increase self-esteem

· Increase Confidence

· Increase Relaxation

· Decrease Stress

It is important to note that art therapy is about the process of creating art and not at all about artistic ability or talent. All ages, of all cultures, of all varying degrees of mental and physical illness have been shown to benefit from art therapy. Under the care of a professional licensed therapist, art therapy can be extremely beneficial for the treatment of a variety of symptoms and diagnosis. I have observed children modify their behaviors due to art therapy, and I have watched as senior citizens find a new lease on life due to art therapy. Art therapy truly is for everyone, let us know if it’s for you!

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