How Art Therapy Calms The Brain

In Art Therapy, Blog by Celine RedfieldLeave a Comment

I have been asked many times, “So your an art therapist how exactly does that work?” Art therapy works to change the brain and calm it because is that it accesses a both hemispheres of the brain, and the also lower hemispheres of the brain which can help access emotions that you are not aware of just using the left part of the brain. Normal talk therapy accesses the left hemisphere.  Let’s explore how art therapy relaxes the body mind and spirit:

1)Provides containment

In the past several years adult coloring books have gotten very popular.  I think that this fantastic. However this is not doing art therapy. Coloring does help to regulate and contain difficult emotions. I frequently have clients use this as a way of coming back into their bodies. Coloring is a very containing activity because there are lines that you are to just fill in. This can become a meditative practice and help to calm anxiety, stress and anger. But unless a person is  processing the experience of the coloring you are not doing art therapy.

How art therapy differs from just coloring is that there is an exploration of emotions, understanding them, then normalizing them. By engaging in this process any of art making in a session, one creates an image that addresses a specific emotion or situation. The artwork uses the right side of your brain to create the piece and that you use both hemispheres to process it.  Through the process of making and processing this art piece you can discover and find new opportunities for growth and change. Understanding a finding alternative solutions is very containing for the client.

“Art can permeate the very deepest part of us, where no words exist.” ~ Eileen Miller

2) Provides an outlet for expression

In our society we are so focused on expressing ourselves verbally. However this can be limiting in the arena of emotions due to the way that our brains are wired, art allows for expression in a different way. Sometimes we do not have words for our experiences and that is okay. Art allows one to explore and create new connections in the brain because we are engaging in a novel experience, which allows us to play and find new solutions to problems.

“Expression is itself transformation; this is the message that art brings. The therapist then would be an artist of the soul, working with sufferers to enable them to find the proper container for their pain, the form in which it would be embodied.”~ Stephen K. Levine

3) Externalization

When we try to solve problems internally it usually leads to stress, anxiety and confusion. That is why the act of externalizing a situation through words, music, movement or art is very effective. When you externalize a situation, symptom or a problem you can see that it is not you, it is just something that you have made a relationship with. You are in a dance with this problem and you think it is is you. But the only way gain clarity is to express it so that you an view it outside of yourself. When one engages in art therapy you are externalizing what you are struggling with, which helps to relieve anxiety and stress.

4)Relieves stress

Art therapy helps to relieve stress because you are eliciting relaxation response by taking deep breaths and relaxes the body. It helps you to be present in the moment like meditation does. It is a active meditative state. Making art work allows adults to learn to play again, use their imagination and elicits relaxation response. When we can learn to let go and be in the moment then it is possible to feel less stressed, making art work allows for this since you are engaged in the task at hand. Having a task that is concrete with a beginning, middle and end is helpful to regulate emotions and stress.

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~ Pablo Picasso

5) It helps with rewiring the  brain

When you practice art making and art therapy it creates brain plasticity and creates new connections in the brain. Brain plasticity helps people to change and react differently to situations and emotions that they may have avoided or hooked into previously. Art therapy gives a new context and meaning to things that once may have upset or angered someone.

What is your experience with the healing impact of art? Please comment below. Are you interested in scheduling a 15-minute phone consultation or a appointment. Please feel free to contact me or 917.248.0063.

Have a Blessed Week!


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