Experiencing Art Therapy

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Art therapy has been around for quite some time now, but in India the trend has only just started. Art therapy certificate courses and workshops are cropping up all over India. I had heard about counseling, treatment and intervention through the creative process, which made me want to find out more.

I first went to an art exhibition which exhibited some of the pieces created by people who were using art therapy to express personal issues.  Although I tried to feel the emotion of what the artist was trying to express, I could not connect to it, which made me curious to experience this form of expression. So I decided to go to a group therapy workshop conducted by art therapist Susan Bullough- Khare, and explore what this form of creative expression was all about.

So, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a circle of diverse individuals, agog and keen.

We started with an interesting exercise for communication where we were paired and had to interact with our partners without speaking, body language or signs and by using only colors and illustrations. After the exercise, we discussed the limitations people face while communicating in the real world. As we analyzed our exercise, I realized that our way of speaking and interpreting varied from person to person.

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Communicating through art

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We moved on to the second half of the workshop, where we were grouped and given a theme for creative expression. As we discussed our theme, I realized how, even though we were culturally diverse, we had common concerns of life in general and our personal life. We began our artwork based on our theme, but slowly it started evolving into something else. I didn’t realize the change until after we were done. I was quite amazed at what was in front of me.

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Our theme was “FEAR”. As you can see, we wrote down a some words that created fear- fear of the unknown, fear of betrayal, fear of loss, fear of commitment. The theme evolved into having hope, faith,  trust, heal and love to overcome the fear, and resulted in tranquility. I realized that this is the process of overcoming almost all our worries and troubles. We may be lonely or scared, but without tackling it, we wouldn’t move forward.

All the groups had the same theme, but every art piece was distinct. It was interpreted differently. One group showed fear of animals and personal fears in a small corner and dealing with them and another group showed a bridge where pictures and words arousing fear were on a wall and the tunnels were the symbol of overcoming those fears. Although all the groups had the same theme, everyone illustrated it uniquely but they also showed similar methods of intervention for the theme.

In all, the workshop changed my perspective of how individuals think. My opinion would be that art therapy is definitely a better way of expression than words, but it can be limited to subjectivity. Art can be used as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing and can give an insight to the therapist about what exactly is going on. It can be used as a process of communicating to the therapist who, in turn, can delve deeper to mitigate and treat the issue.

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