Art Therapy is a discipline that uses diverse means of expression within a supportive environment, such as performing arts, drawing, painting, sculpture, music, writing and improvisation. It is programmed to detect possible blockages caused by false impressions at an early age, work on them and eliminate them facilitating the integral development of the being.
Childhood is a unique experimental period, in which the individual is extremely receptive to external impacts. However, due to the lack of experience and knowledge specific for this specific stage, these impacts can cause erroneous impressions that will influence the person's future behavior and beliefs. This process of discovering oneself through art entails an important emotional depth for which is extremely effective.
The art therapist's ability to perceive communication and the non-verbal rhythm of the process, paying attention to the visual signs, facial gestures, tone of voice, even the breathing rhythm in the creative process, is as important as the interpretation of the metaphorical content of the images or objects created. This process requieres high doses of empathy, concentration, intuition and tuning with the student, in order to procure the realization of the larger picture.
The art therapist does not interpret but considers the artistic process as a metaphor used to describe something else, including perceptions, experiences, beliefs or emotions. The objective is to help the individual developing an artistic language that helps expressing internal metaphors through painting, music, sculpture, collage, photography, body movement, etc.
Images and symbols are not interpreted, but verbal communication is stimulated where the image, textures, feelings, environment are described, and it is the student who discovers information about himself and his/her unknown emotions.
There are innumerable techniques to develop art therapy exercises, however the imaginary method is based on the basic ones explained by Dr. Cathy Malchiodi in various articles of the American magazine "Psychology Today":
1) Collage: Using clippings from magazines, photos, letters, invitations, etc., the student feels less intimidated by the idea of how good of an artist he or she is. Anyone can make a collage, and apart from this advantage, is a technique that allows us to cut, add & remove, therefore making changes and experimenting during the process, which does not happen with all techniques. The student creates a reflexive visual narrative and at the end of the process verbalizes the image.
2) Family Sculpture: Working with clay or plasticine representing each family member and other relatives or influential circle. The objective is to reflect, in an abstract way, the personality of that person and their role within the family, relating to one another. When all the figures are complete, the student orders them and forms a scene depending on the relationship and interaction between them in real life.
Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
- Oscar Wilde
3) Mask: The creation of masks includes many of Jung's concepts, including the person and the shadow. Masks can bring to consciousness how we see ourselves, but also how we would like to be, or how we believe that other people see us, analyzing the creation of the inner and the outer part of this perception.
4) Group therapy: Students create individually or collectively, through a group or mural painting with an objective such as creating an island or a world, with the aim of analyzing what each of them would include. The members of the group must communicate, negotiate, collaborate and commit to reach consensus, with the help of the therapist, to create something together. When participants share their challenges, losses, disabilities, illnesses or traumas through art, it is a profound intervention. This allows them to see that we are all more similar than different and feel valued by others, and more than anything, transcend the feeling of belonging.
5) Mandalas: the creative process and images that appear in this circle reflect the essence of what we are in the here and now, symbolically revealing from the individual's personality to his or her physical health.
6) How do you feel today ? In this exercise you are requested to express it through facial expressions, such as happy, sad, angry, frightened, or the representation of your body and emotions, through magazine images collages, pencils, colors, shapes or lines to represent our feelings. It can also be done using other expressive arts, music therapy (percussion instruments or simply different types of music), dance therapy with colored fabrics, clay or plasticine, phototherapy (with photographs of expressions), writing or creative narration.
7) Art diaries including images and words. Its content documents day-to-day experiences, activities and emotions as well as autobiographies that explore emotions and feelings over time, and whose evolution is a key factor in art therapy. There are already some indicators that the use of visual arts and writing in a diary has many different health benefits: it reduces heart rate, increases serotonin and immune cells production, and reduces stress symptoms.
8) Metaphor: It is an excellent technique especially if the patient is having difficulty in beginning to express him/herself. A well-chosen metaphor can stimulate imagination, creative narrative, or a personal projection through the image created.
9) Active Imagination: It is the process of consciously dialoguing with the unconscious and a way to access and consult with one's inner wisdom. Jungian concept roots in the concept of Freud's free association. Instead of asking a person to talk about a painting, the therapist invites him or her to respond to it through the movement of the body, the use of percussion instruments, or acting out the feeling or content of the work.
Art, by itself, is a form of active imagination and using it without judging, controlling and without the intention of creating a specific product, it is a very effective tool for spontaneous discovery.
Techniques described by Carolina Lanas in her Art to Express article: