Psychology is one of my most favorite areas of interest and I often research about the different advancements in this field and explore them in depth. In the last few years, I have come across the term “Art Therapy” quite a lot of times and it truly intrigued me and thus, I plunged into this topic. After studying about it from various sources, I came to the conclusion that this therapy is extremely fascinating and beautiful in its essence. I believe, as more than half of us are suffering from varying forms of depression (whether we admit it or not) and are surrounded by paranoia and chaos, this therapy might help us on a whole new level. It is a promising area and from my point of view, needs to be expansively familiarized.
Introduction to Art Therapy:
Art Therapy, as the name suggests, is a form of therapy to deal with mental stresses, overcome the communication struggles and plays a vital role in self-analysis, which in other words, is also known as introspection. It helps people contemplate over their own selves, their personalities and helps in figuring out who they really are. This therapy makes use of colors and artistic techniques to counter these issues, which most of the times, act as a barrier in the flow of our daily life.
Origination of Art Therapy:
According to “About Health” Art Therapy is being used since thousands of years in multiple ways. People have often used arts to heal their patients. But it actually formulated as a form of therapy in mid of 20th century. Doctors instilled the idea of being creative in their patient’s mind, who was suffering from some sort of mental disorder, and they observed a positive change in them. This encouragement has now led to a complete branch of arts and psychology which is now being practiced all over the world and has changed the lives of thousands of people.
Benefits of Art Therapy:
According to Art Therapy Blog, the benefits are not only bound to people who are exceptionally creative with paper, brushes and colors. Such is the beauty of this therapy that you don’t necessarily have to be a talented artist. You use your own imagination and simply let it flow. You decipher the underlying meaning behind your piece of art; you try to understand your imagination and creativity and thus heal your soul. It works wonders in treating the patients undergoing counseling, rehabilitation and psychotherapy.
For a normal human being, who has fortunately no serious mental disorders, this therapy is a great way of self-exploration. It gives you an insight into your own personality (this is an entirely different topic and it would take ages but we still won’t completely cover it). It improves the mental health and colors plays an intriguing role in emotional uplifting and understanding of personality (color psychology is yet another branch). Art Therapy can be done in the form of a group and it opens new channels of friendly communication with fellow human beings.
For people with severe mental disorders, like schizophrenia or depression due to emotional abuse, a serious disease or PTSD, also immensely benefit from this form of therapy. They actually feel a control over their temperaments; their stress and tension vanishes and after playing around with colors, they feel lightened and their anxiety decreases significantly. Art Therapy has also helped numerous serious cases of bipolar and these people experience an effective result when they perform Art Therapy activities.
As stated by American Art Therapy Association, this form of therapy plays a vital role in building up problem solving skills and increasing the confidence level. It awakens the self-esteem of a person and indulges them into self-awareness. It helps a person develop both phsycially and mentally, by using their imagination and working on their creativity. It opens new channels of exploring interpersonal skills and polishing them.
Art Therapy in the West:
Compared to the East, the West is taking Art Therapy very seriously. There are various research institutes who are working endlessly to instigate the importance of Art Therapy among common people. To get this knowledge in the hands of a random person browsing through the internet from one corner of the world, special Art Therapy blogs are updated daily and they give creative ideas for experiencing the miracles of Art Therapy within your own home and at your own ease.
Plenty of institutes have started certified programs regarding Art Therapy and many universities are providing graduate and post-graduate programs in this field. Following are some institutes working ardently for the promotion of Art Therapy:
- Western Sydney University: They are offering Masters in Art Therapy (post grad program) which teaches various visual art forms for therapeutic purposes.
- University of Central Lancashire (North West England): They are offering MA in Arts along with a Diploma and a Certificate program.
- University of Chester (North West England): Similarly, this university offers MA in Arts Therapy along with a Diploma and a Certificate program.
- Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, California): This university offers Masters in Arts with specialization in Art Therapy.
- West Liberty University (West Virginia): WLU offers a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Art Therapy. Their whole program is carefully structured keeping in mind the importance of Art Therapy in the future of medical sciences.
Art Therapy in Pakistan:
Unfortunately, like every other sub-field of psychology, Pakistan lags behind in Art Therapy education and recognition. Although people residing in principle cities like Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad etc are becoming more aware about Art Therapy, there is still a major lack of coverage in this regard. Following are few pakistani universities and organizations where Art Therapy is being endorsed and encouraged:
- In Punjab University Department of Gender Studies, an informative lecture was organized on the topic of Drama and Art Therapy. The lecture was delivered by Asim Amjad who is an accomplished Art Therapist himself.
- Art Therapy and Mental Health organization: This is an NGO, run by the aforementioned, Asim Amjad. They are striving hard to promote Art Therapy in Pakistan. This is a fabulous venture with amazing artwork on display.
- Universal Women Children Art Therapy Association (UWCATA) & Pakistan Bai-ul-Maal (PBM) arranged a joint Art Therapy Workshop under the guidance of Samina Jamshed, for 3000 orphan kids of Pakistan Sweet Homes. The money generated from the exhibition of the artwork by these kids, went to each of the young artists who drew it.
- Samina Jamshed was also the conductor of an Art Therapy Workshop for 70 school teachers of Convent institutes. They were lectured on tips and techniques to help the kids overcome their shyness and to bring out their inner creativity with the help of colors and art.
- Ufaq Ehsan is a graduate of NCA, Lahore. She has been working as an Art Therapist for more than a decade now. She has organized various workshops in Pakistan, like Falah Foundation Art Therapy workshop (2005), Aman ka Rasta Art Workshop (2010) and has worked as an Art Therapist in various schools and hospitals of Lahore.
- For people living in Karachi, T2F needs no introduction. They have also arranged workshops and artistic activities for children to introduce them to Art Therapy miracles. Creative Reflections: An Introduction to Art Therapy was one such workshop which was facilitated by Shazia Mohamad who is an Art Therapy graduate.
Future of Art Therapy in Pakistan:
Art Therapy is meant to stabilize the depressed minds. In the West, significant amount of people have gained knowledge about this particular therapy and are greatly benefitting from it. However, in Pakistan, people consider psychology itself, a taboo area of specialization. This issue should be seriously discussed on educational platforms. Also, mental disorders are increasing day by day, especially due to the sudden unfortunate events that happen in our country. Children and adults alike, are suffering terribly and they miserably go through these ordeals without expressing their troubles. Frequent Art Therapy Workshops and seminars will prove to be a positive action to fight off this negative energy. Similarly, like the West, our universities should start graduate or post-graduate programs in Art Therapy. Or simply, for starters, they should introduce certificate programs. People with an avid interest in arts should be urged to come forward, cooperate in building up a beneficial Art Therapy future in Pakistan and fully endorse its colorful miracles.