Healing through the Arts

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Healing through the Arts

What expressive arts can teach us about ourselves

There have been moments in my life when I was ready to give up art. I thought I didn’t need it anymore, after all, I was working on becoming this professional psychologist. Why should I waste my time on something I spent all my time on as a child? Isn’t it time I grew up and became serious about my career?

But soon enough, I was about to realize that art served more than just a hobby to me. After having told myself that I no longer needed to engage in art after my first year of college, I quickly learned that I needed art as much as I needed air to breathe.

And it can be like that for other creative individuals, too. Art serves a purpose. For some, making art is a means for self-expression, a form of communication with the greater world, and a way to process one’s feelings. Art provides a way for others to share about the internal weather that is happening inside them, one that is often reliant on so much more than just words.

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While the medical community has been slow to embrace the idea that art has a place in the healing profession, a paradigm shift is growing. Research studies on the effects of music therapy on individuals with dementia suggest that it was helpful in addressing symptoms of anxiety and behavioral challenges. A randomized controlled study further showed that group music therapy on elderly individuals with dementia was helpful in addressing symptoms of depression, and improved cognitive functioning, especially those with mild to moderate dementia. For individuals dealing with symptoms of depression and post traumatic stress disorder, art therapy has shown in a significant decline in symptoms among adults, helping provide a creative outlet to make meaning of the challenges people have had to overcome. Lastly, art therapy interventions have been found helpful in working with children with learning and developmental disorders, giving them a way to learn new ways of self-expression and communication, and to improve on their social and problem-solving skills. While we can certainly benefit from more research to determine the level of effectiveness art therapy provides in addressing various mental health concerns, it is notable that art has been able to address some of the most challenging mental health symptoms among vastly different individuals throughout the lifespan.

Art is the perfect vehicle through which we can create impactful change on how people deal with emotional challenges that are often to difficult to convey. Additionally, art can be a great way to begin to practice better self-care habits. Our self-care routine can be as easy as taking time to enjoy listening to the sounds of nature, walking mindfully outside during our lunch break, or eagerly getting lost in a large canvas and painting our ideas for hours. Whatever you decide, just make sure to have fun.

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So if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, come join us and let’s paint! Check out the upcoming event in Berkeley, California on February 9 from 10am-12pm. Would love to see you (and a friend!) soon!


-Dr. Mayo