Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Art Therapy

I already have all of my art events, but today I had a meeting with an art therapist (it is something I am interested in pursuing) and thought I would talk/write about it here. To begin with, I will explain what art therapy is- or at least the core of it. Art in therapy is used (1) as a means to express emotions, work through problems, etc and (2) to prompt discussion- kind of like a prop to refer to when discussing feelings and problems.

In this meeting we looked at art from several patients of a free clinic. These patients were diagnosed with things like depression, schizophrenia, and organic illnesses (e.g., alcoholism). We talked about what these pieces can reveal or how they can be helpful in a therapy setting. One of the best examples of this was a comparison of 2 pieces by a woman with schizophrenia. One while she was on medication and another when she was not taking her medication. The differences were astounding. The pictures were of similar things- a star shaped figure smiling. However the piece when she was on her medication was neatly composed and orderly. The second piece was everywhere on the page and used several colors and many boxes within the shape. It was chaotic and busy. This shows visually the mental state of the woman in these separate instances.

2 pieces by a depressed woman were also very interesting. Both were self-portraits done in the same day. The first was very faintly drawn with pencil. The woman was normal in appearance and rather non-descript with flat affect. The second was produced immediately afterwards. This drawing was done with markers and was very colorful. The figure here appeared very angry, with the mouth open as if screaming and the arms flung wide. The interesting thing here (and a good example of how art can be used as a prompt) is that people with depression often experience a great sense of anger that they keep pushed down and the effort it takes to keep it down can result in depressive symptoms.

This meeting was very interesting because we got to see multiple pieces of work by the same individuals with mental disorders.

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