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Can Art Be Therapy?

**Please note that this post was originally submitted as part of a web development class assignment. Any errors, copyright issues, etc. are unintended and will be fixed as located**

You’ve likely heard of arts and crafts as being a good way to pass the time, but how much thought have you given to their real potential? Did you know that they can be one of the most effective methods of therapy, both with and without the supervision of a mental health professional?

Yep, you read right: professional. Over the past few years, art has become more and more recognised as having genuine psychological benefits in conditions ranging from depression all the way to chronic pain. From the simple viewing of or surrounding ourselves with it to producing it ourselves, its benefits have been documented in many ways. Admittedly, not all are scholarly since, after all, the majority of its effects are psychological in nature, be that the cause or the effect of the benefit, but the fact that so many of us have turned to crafts, art, and even such unconventional art as tattoos, as a means of dealing with issues, and the fact that even physicians and psychological professionals are now actively prescribing ‘Art Therapy’ can only indicate one thing: it works. Even I myself was ‘prescribed’ art therapy not so long ago.

We’ve all heard the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and I doubt I’d be far wrong in thinking that most of us would translate that to “a picture tells a thousand words.” What if, however, we ascribe to it a different meaning? Instead of that picture being something that tells us a thousand words, what if those words are the ones we’re telling? For every gem on a diamond painting, every poke of a tattoo needle or stroke of a paintbrush, another word we’re unable to articulate is somehow translated into a form others who have never even met us can appreciate, whether through the interpretation of what we’ve created or through the time and effort put into doing so.

Bear in mind that this isn’t necessarily specific to the actual treatment form known as art therapy. Art therapy is, in itself, a form of treatment that combines the production and creation of art with psychotherapy that seeks to analyse the end product in an effort to understand the mental processes of the client/ patient. For a more in-depth explanation, the Canadian Art Therapy Association has much more information, and is far more qualified that we could hope to be here. However, therapy isn’t just defined by whether it is overseen by a qualified professional. After all, haven’t we all described something at some time as ‘therapeutic’? Listening to a piece of music that calms us, baking grandma’s favorite muffins or throwing an axe at a target are all things I have heard described in that way, and that is the therapy we aim to look at here at Hunter’s Moon.

True, we’ll be looking more deeply at the medical and scientific side too, but the main focus on the therapeutic side will be on the non-professional, aspects – those that have been related, if not clinically proven, because there are so many that have little or no documented research. To be fair, I’ve never gone into a lengthy search to determine how many doctors have studied the medical benefits of crochet or the calming effect of earring-making, but I’m fairly certain it’s more probable that we can find such documentation on forums and Facebook groups than in medical journals.

In the future, I hope that we’ll be able to look at each art form individually, with testimonials from people who’ve actively used them as a form of therapy to deal with issues, in order to give each the attention it deserves. I hope you’ll join us on this journey and, if you feel comfortable with it, share your own experiences too.

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