Revealing Emotions Through Art Therapy

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By MELANIE ELLIS

Santa Fe ”“
Because art comes from the soul, it can reveal the inner self. In art therapy, patients use tools such as paints, chalks, pencils and markers to express their emotions through the symbols they create.

These images can then be analyzed by the therapist to achieve insight, resolve conflicts, solve problems, and to help the patient gain positive changes, growth and healing.

“Trust the art,” said Deborah Schroder, chair of the art therapy/counseling program at Southwestern College.

Schroeder believes that the honesty of the art moves patients, shifts perceptions and summons up messages from deep inside one’s spirit.

She spoke about a skeptical client who “lived in his head” and came to family art therapy reluctantly. He was moved to tears by his own tentative, stick-figure drawing of himself embracing his wife and daughter.

“IAIA students have the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree in art therapy/counseling from Southwestern College here in Santa Fe,” said Ann Filemyr, Dean of Academic Studies.

Work Opportunities

Art therapists work in a wide variety of settings:
Ӣ Hospitals and clinics
Ӣ Out-patient mental health agencies
Ӣ Residential treatment centers
Ӣ Half-way houses
Ӣ Domestic violence and homeless shelters
Ӣ Elder care facilities
Ӣ Art studios

IAIA currently offers the following courses for those interested in pursuing a graduate degree in art therapy/counseling at Southwestern:
Ӣ Introduction to art therapy
Ӣ Six studio art classes (for 36 total credit hours
Ӣ Introduction to psychology

History

In the early twentieth century, psychiatrists became interested in the art work created by their patients with mental illnesses. During this same time, educators were discovering that children’s art reflected their developmental potential, emotional and cognitive growth.

By mid-century, hospitals, clinics and rehabilitation centers began to include art therapy programs to enhance patient’s recovery, health and well being.

Colors and Images Reveal Emotions

Four commonly used methods today are the Diagnostic Drawing Series, House-Tree-Person, Mandala Assessment Research Instrument and Road Drawing.

The Diagnostic Drawing Series is completed by using three drawings. The first part asks the patient to draw any picture using colored chalk pastels on an 18×24-inch piece of paper.

They are asked to draw a tree in the second part. For the third part of the process, they are then asked to show how they are feeling using lines, shapes and colors. The therapist is then able to analyze the use of color, blending and how the images were placed on the paper.

A second method of assessment is the House-Tree-Person method. The patient is asked to draw the three separate images, all in pencil. The therapist asks questions like, “How old is the person in your drawing?” or “What is the house made of?”

The therapist can then start making determinations as to the patient’s mental and emotional states. The house, tree and person in the drawing represent different aspects of the artist and the way the artist feels about him/herself.

In the Mandala Assessment, a person is asked to select a card with different mandalas, which are designs enclosed in a geometric shape. They are asked to choose a color from a set of colored cards.

The person is then asked to draw the mandala from the card they chose with an oil pastel with a color of their choice. The artist is then asked to explain if there were any meanings or experiences relating to the mandala that they drew.

For the Road Drawing method, the client is simply asked to draw a road.
This drawing represents the client’s “road of life.” This type of drawing has the potential to create spontaneous imagery that represents the client’s origins, the history of his/her experiences to date, and intentions for the future.

Click Here for further information about the field of art therapy.

Copyright © IAIA CHRONICLE 2010

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