Creative Series Part One: Art Therapy

By Maisha Ahmed

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NY Project Hope is a crisis counseling program that provides support and resources to help people cope with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic

Starting the creative series seemed a bit daunting to me at first. How can we define creativity? I always seem to interchange creativity with natural talent so I never considered myself a creative person. For example, I love drawing especially at times when I feel like my anxiety is sky-rocketing. It is a form of distraction and helps me calm down a bit but if you were to see my drawings, you would assume it was a five-year-old who drew it. But I realized I was limiting myself because creativity isn’t just about how well your abilities are. You don’t have to be the next Picasso or Steve Jobs; creativity is the way one expresses his or herself in any form that can be used for therapeutic purposes. One such form may be through art therapy.

Art Therapy: A Brief Introduction and History

Art therapy is a therapeutic process in which people are often encouraged to utilize creative art as a way to reflect on their emotional well-being and foster healing. It can help people express difficult subjects such as past traumas or as a coping resource for anxiety with the usage of artistic techniques such as coloring, photographing, sculpting, fingerpainting, and even just doodling or scribbling. It is used to help explore emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stress, and enhance cognitive functions.

It originated in mid 20th century Europe during a time where the country was plagued with tuberculous. It was noted that most patients were held in sanatoriums where freedom was often limited. Creative art became an outlet for their cooped-up emotions and stress and soon art therapy was being used more in mental hospitals and spreading world-wide

 Benefits of Art Therapy

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How and why did art therapy gain popularity and spread to different parts of the world as a new form of therapy? Well let’s consider the benefits of art therapy that has been observed that led to its rise in popularity:

  • Improved perception of self: Art in any form is a fantastic way of expressing and acknowledging feelings that have been lurking in the subconscious. It’s a way to make connections between emotions and the body awareness.
  • Boost in self-esteem: It’s natural to feel a sense of pride when something of value is produced or the process of creating something with one own’s hand is completed. This can make one feel self-appreciative and confident. I’m not the best artist out there but I discovered my love for activities such as paint night or taking a painting class because the end result is something that came from my own hard work.
  • Emotional relief: As stated before, art can provide mental relief and a reduction in stress by being utilized as an outlet to express complex emotions that are sometimes difficult to verbalize. I’ve noticed that when my anxiety spikes up, I tend to go on a downward spiral and start thinking negatively about the world which often leads to a lot of self-loathing as well. Drawing is a wonderful disruption that not only helps distract my mind from going down the rabbit hole too deep but provides a calm and therapeutic way of expressing my pain and anger.
  • Behavior adjustment: Interestingly enough, art therapy can provide an opportunity to reflect on behavioral traits and choices which leads to providing different options and paths to take.

One Last Reminder

I would like to take this opportunity to end the blog with some words of encouragement to anyone who wants to turn to art as a form of comfort. Please remember that art therapy is not the same as art class. You will not be judged nor graded based on the quality of your art. It’s supposed to help relief stress, provide emotional release, and help process your feelings so please do not worry about how your art looks.

As always, Project Hope is also here to help you! Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone you don’t know! Want to know more about how we can help? Give us a call at 845-762-2275. Talking to us is always free, anonymous, and confidential.

Maisha Ahmed is a crisis counselor from Independent Living, Inc. working on with the NY Project Hope program. 


The Healing Benefits of Art Therapy