Tag Archives: Arts

Mental Health and Art Therapy #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 15 in the #Write31Days challenge on mental health. I will resume writing about personality disorders soon, but today, I don’t have the energy to do my research. Instead, I will write about art therapy, which is a form of therapy that can be particularly helpful to people with mental health issues.

Art therapy is a creative method whereby art mediums are used in the therapeutic process. It obviously originated at the crossroads of art and psychotherapy. Sometimes art therapy is focused on the creative process itself. For example, today while in art therapy, I made polymer clay beads. Sometimes, art therapy focuses on analyzing the interaction between therapist and client while engaging in creative arts.

Many people use art therpay to express feelings they can’t express in words. For example, trauma survivors, especially children, may use art to express their feelings about their life and the trauma they endured. An example of this was mentioned to my high school class when we got an educational session on giftedness. (My school was a grammar school, where about 30% of pupils were gifted.) A gifted boy, when drawing the human face, always drew an angry face. Another example perhaps comes from myself. In high school, I often drew blue-eyed figures in cages. This was an expression of how I felt trapped by my blindness.

Art can also serve a symbolic step in the healing process. For example, sometime in 2014, I created a baby self out of clay. I put it in a box lined with soft textures to express that she was safe now.

Art therapy can also serve the purpose of having the client explore new creative media. In this way, it can be used to encourage people with anxiety or sensory issues to try out new things. For instance, I sometimes get to try new materials to explore the boundaries of my sensory and emotional tolerance.

The creative process can also be used to have patients step out of their comfort zones. For example, my art therapist and I have used a drawing exercise by which I’d draw a random pattern (I don’t have enough vision to draw anything meaningful anymore). My therapist would first stay at a safe distance with her felt tip, but would try to gradually move into my drawing space.

Lastly, art therapy can simply be a form of leisure or recreational therapy. The polymer clay bead making didn’t have much of a purpose, other than perhaps having me try to handle the feel of polymer clay. Then again, I came up with the idea of doing this. It is more just a way to learn new techniques to use in my free time.

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The Importance of Day Activities

Over the past week, I’ve been having a hard time of it at my ward. I decided on Sunday that I wanted to leave and go backt o my old city institution. Then over the week, I participated in some day activities on my ward, in the activity building and in the multipurpose room at another adult long-term care ward. This made me realize that at least day activities are much better here than they were in my old institution, and I softened up a bit. I had a talk with my therapist on Thursday, and this made me decide I don’t want to leave for now. This talk contributed to that decision, but the good experience I’d had going to day activities did more.

I’ve heard on some institution wards day activities are not provided, because the clients need to learn to occupy themselves. This, in my opinioon, is the biggest horse manure around. Currently mentally healthy people have a job, too, so why shouldn’t those who are too disabled or ill to have a regular job? Most people here go to some kind of industrial arts type of day activities, so it’s actually real labor. For some, like me, this is not suitable, and they end up doing arts and crafts. This may seem more like a replacement of leisure rather than work, but don’t mentally healthy people have a variety of jobs, too? For some mentally ill people, just getting out of bed is hard work, and simple day activities can provide them with the structure that a job does, too.

There are many benefits of day activites. Some of them, like a daily structure, are applicable to real jobs too. Others, like distraction from one’s mental health problems, are not, but that doesn’t make them any less useful. Becoming mentally healthy, after all, involves more than being able to do a regular job.

I for one find that day activities provide me with meaning to my days, structure, as in a reason to get out of bed, social interaction, distraction, and enjoyment. Day activities are in my opinion more beneficial to my mental health than the psychotherapy I get. This is one reason I’m willing to put up with somewhat unsuitable psychotherapy in exchange for much more suitable day activities.