Can art be a tool for stress relief?

Author: Dana McGorlick-Appelman  Date Posted:29 December 2020 

Can art be a tool for stress relief?

Stress is an inevitable aspect of life. Whether its day-to-day stressors, relationship or family problems or the uncertainty of a global pandemic like Covid-19, stress and struggle is something each and every one of us can relate to. It’s no secret that stress can have significant negative effects on our health and wellbeing. Fortunately, there are ways to manage stress levels and improve your life through art. Creating art can help foster a general sense of wellbeing and healing in numerous aspects of life, and can be a fantastic tool for mindfulness.

What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapy definition:

Art therapy is defined as the “application of the visual arts in a therapeutic context”.

Art therapy can provide mental and emotional relief, reduce anxiety and stress, and lead to self-discovery, increased self-esteem and confidence. It is often used in counselling sessions with a certified art therapist and is used to treat psychological disorders and mental illness in clinical settings through creative expression and analysis, using various art methods and techniques. A professional art therapist can help to analyse and decode the messages conveyed through your work and help you explore and understand these emotions and themes with therapeutic techniques, helping foster the healing process. Art therapists undertake specialised training within an art therapy course and often work in hospitals, prisons, rehabilitation centres, private counselling, and nursing homes.

Art therapy can be of benefit to all ages and skillsets. It is a means of visually expressing ideas that can’t be put into words and can help us better understand our feelings, develop new coping mechanisms and greater personal insights.

You don’t need a professional art therapist or a clinical setting to benefit from creating art. Allowing yourself to create and express your innermost feelings can be extremely empowering, freeing and healing. Creating an artwork is also a very relaxing and inspiring activity, and can also instil a wonderful feeling of self-accomplishment. Creating art also stimulates the release of dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical, making it a safe and healthy means of releasing stress and bottled-up emotions, while increasing your levels of “happy hormones”.

History of Art Therapy

Art as a vehicle for expression, communication and healing has been used for thousands of years, spanning across various cultures and continents. “Art therapy” as a term was first established in 1942 by an artist named Adrian Hill after discovering the sense of joy and relaxation generated from drawing and painting following a tuberculosis diagnosis. Art therapy then began its more mainstream use in psychological treatment in the United States and Europe during the 1940s. Other significant contributors to the field of Art therapy include Edith Kramer, Florence Cane, Hanna Kwaitkowska, Elinor Ulman and Margaret Naumburg.