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A is for Arts Therapies

Author: null null Published: 8th April 2012 22:48

A piece from an art therapy workshopThere's a strong tradition of using the arts as a means of therapeutic expression, facilitated by a trained therapist. Different arts such as painting, using clay modelling, music, singing, dance, are used to help people make sense of sometimes very intense feelings, which may be too painful to express verbally.

Arts therapists are trained and registered with their professional bodies, and work with people creatively from a psychotherapeutic perspective. There is evidence that arts therapies offer the only form of treatment found to be effective with negative symptoms of schizophrenia.[1]

Here's a brief summary of the different arts therapies:-

Art therapy makes use of painting, clay work and other creative art as a means of giving expression to memories and emotions in a non-verbal therapeutic context. The symbolism associated with image making enables people to connect with and resolve deep, conflicting emotions within the safer confines of artistic creation. The opportunity to explore the abstract through art also goes beyond the usual cultural limitations. Using physical materials through art therapy can have a stabilising effect while tapping into a person's creative resources to support recovery from serious physical or mental illness.

Music therapy has been used to engage with people who are very withdrawn and reluctant to engage with others. This may take a more active form, playing instruments or singing, or it could involve listening to music when someone is too weak or unconscious. For example studies have shown how music therapy can help severely autistic children, people with dementia, people in comas or with terminal illnesses where palliative care is needed.

Dance therapy is based on the principle that movement reflects an individual's patterns of thinking and feeling. By expressing their moods and feeling through movement and dance, people can connect with their emotions and feel their mind and body become more integrated. Dance therapy can help people who have feelings of being detached and disconnected from everyday life and their surroundings, for example as a result of trauma or substance misuse, or through psychosis.

Voice movement therapy uses knowledge of acoustics as well as the anatomy and physiology of the voice, and can incorporate music, drama and dance. Movement and massage helps free the voice, breath and throat, which may feel blocked or constricted, preventing self expression. This form of therapy particularly helps people who have difficulties using their voice for speaking or singing because of physical reasons or emotional blocks.

Dramatherapy and psychodrama are usually used with groups, with techniques such as improvisation, role play, mime, enactment, movement, rhythm, speech and vocalisation. People act out situations to gain insight into their own emotions, thoughts and behaviour and learn new ways of dealing with them. Drama draws on the use of metaphor, enabling the expression of powerful emotions and traumatic experiences indirectly.[2]

There is also growing evidence about the benefits of participation in arts activities generally for health and wellbeing, and in particular recovery from mental ill-health. Research has shown that people taking part in arts projects whether in the community or in health settings gain improved confidence and self-esteem, better social and communication skills, as well as increased creative self expression and understanding. [3]

[1]NICE, 2009, Core interventions in the treatment and management of schizophrenia in primary and secondary care (update). Clinical guideline 82. www.nice.org.uk/cg82.
[2]http://www.mind.org.uk/help/medical_and_alternative_care/arts_therapies

[3] http://www.towersabove.co.uk/research_on_arts_and_mental_health.html

 

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