The College of Arts and Communication is in the process of organizing a Bachelor of Science in Art Therapy. This new degree will be a mixture of art studio and art therapy courses with a required minor in psychology, gerontology or special education. Classes for the new Art Therapy program will be offered starting in the spring of 2012 with full implementation of the program, expected in the fall of 2013.
Students interested in enrolling in this new Art Therapy degree program should contact Michele Ellis–Thomas, Assistant Professor of Art Therapy by phone at (304) 336-8834 or by email at [email protected].
Art Therapy in a Nutshell
Art therapy is easily defined as a form of demiurgic therapy that utilizes the unique perspective in the creative process offering reconciliation toward the individual’s inner and outer worlds often it often bridges the gap of concerns, thoughts and feelings between the individuals physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.
It is a therapy that universally allows the individual to create in an expressive and safe setting in which professionals can work with them and delve into the underlying messages communicated through art. While Art therapy is not all things to all people, it can achieve different things for different people. It can be used for counseling by therapists, promote healing, treatment, rehabilitation, psychotherapy. Art therapy can be used to message to one’s inner-self that may provide the individual with a deeper understanding of him or herself.
Using Art Therapy
Art Therapy is a form of creativity inherent within the fabric of the individual’s expression and can be use by almost anyone. Art therapy strives to offer a visual form of conscious and unconscious reconciliation in a world collaborating with a multitude of ways to communicate and express one’s self. One of the major differences between art therapy and other forms of communication is that most other forms of communication elicit the use of words or language as a means of communication. Often times, humans are incapable of aptly expressing themselves or identifying their underlying feelings and as in the case of a child, they may lack the sophistication to succinctly communicate the nature of their conflict often finding themselves within a limited range of verbalization.
One of the qualities present in Art as therapy is the ability for a person to express his/her feelings through any form of art. Though the sheer act of creative expression, reconciliation may begin to take place on an unconscious level in a manner that is healing to that individual, as it simultaneously eliminates the need for association. In this manner, it can be a cathartic means of resolving conflict without the need to associate… One of the most predominate aspects of creative arts in therapy are other types of expressive therapies (such as the performing arts, drama, music and movement), and although the expressive art therapy typically utilizes more traditional forms of art, such as painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, or a variety of other types of visual art expression. However, there is increasing milieu’s that have begun to find Creative Arts in therapy useful in many other types of settings such as, medical, mental health as well as the simple act of creating.
To be or not to be Artistically Talented
One does not need be artistically talented. Art therapy cradles the concept that often the basic premise to understanding the world around us is largely dependent on both the hands and eyes. Though one may be fearful of the use of creative tools and it may seem different and unnatural at first, it is typically because the individual is not used to communicating via the arts. The creative process can be one of the most elucidating aspects of resolution. Aligned with an art therapist, it becomes a tool for communication, ignoring the need to be talented; it relies on communication as a mechanism exploring the visual imagery, symbolic process and relationship to art rather than talent. The goal is not necessarily to create an art masterpiece.
Using Art Therapy
As with most any therapy, art as therapy is an integrative creative process – used as a means to help to improve one’s emotional state or mental well-being. As an integral component of a treatment team it can be a substantially contributing aspect to determine the goals of therapy. In an individual process and as a “stand alone therapy” outside of a clinic or hospital setting, it can be used to relieve stress, tension, or used as a mode of self-discovery. Many people enjoy creative outlets. Ultimately, the goal in art therapy, is toward developing coping styles, while widening the range of human experience by creating equivalences for those experiences.
Professional Art Therapy and Art Therapists
Art therapists are trained in therapy and art. They have studied and mastered psychology and human development. Art therapists typically have a practice, clinical, hospital based or private practice. They, also, work in academic, counseling and education. They are masters in this niche when it comes to using art as a springboard for everything from art therapy assessments of another person’s current state to treatment for a serious illness. Art therapists can work with people of all ages, sex, culture, etc. They can help an individual, a couple, a family, or groups of people. Depending on the situation, there may be numerous creative therapists working together as a clinical team.
Art therapists are trained to pick up on nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are often expressed through art and the creative process, concepts that are usually difficult to express with words. It is through this process that the individual really begins to see the effects of art therapy in a milieu that promotes the synthesis of the creative process, product and/or associative references. Art Therapists assist with the creative expression with that integration and synthesis throughout the process and finally with the product.
Definitions of Art Therapy
Art therapy definitions have undergone many changes throughout the evolution of its development. Briefly, art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art media. Art therapy combines traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with an understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process, especially the affective properties of the different art materials.
Art therapy involves the creation of art in order to increase awareness of self and others. This in turn may promote personal development, increase coping skills, and enhance cognitive function. It is based on personality theories, human development, psychology, family systems, and art education. Art therapists are trained in both art and psychological therapy.
From The New Medicine AATA, the definition of the profession:
Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals. Art therapists work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities. They provide services, individually and as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; open studios and independent practices.
And, In Summary:
Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. In the current global endeavors, art therapy is finding its place within other disciplines such as forensics, counseling, education and military reintegration. According to many pioneers art therapy widens the scope of human experience and assimilates untapped sources of creativity and expression in the individual. They are knowledgeable about human development; it combines elements of psychological theories and psychotherapy strengthening the defenses. In a clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art establishes this form of therapy as a means toward synthesis of the psychic fabric. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals. In the final analysis, the attributes of art therapy is multifocal and beneficial to those that truly wish to utilize it creative force believing intrinsically that “the very act of art is healing” (Ulman,1961).
Art Therapy becomes an ambassador of integration for development of “a common language of human development with a unique emphasis on art as a medium of intellectual and creative exchange” (Paul J. Fink, MD, 1983).