Art Therapy: A New Way To Communicate

photo credit: Ebbs and Flowers

photo credit: Ebbs and Flowers

Today marks one week since being admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital. As part of my recovery, I am encouraged to go along to as many (or as few) of the classes and groups that I feel comfortable. These groups and classes range from a youth group for under 25s, to information sessions on medication, and relaxation classes.

Although surprisingly exhausting, many of these classes and groups are actually rather enjoyable, and I am finding them useful in my recovery. In fact, one of the classes on decision making actually inspired my last post Dear Friend (What I Wish I Could Say) . But yesterday, I chose to partake in a completely different and relatively new form of activity: Art Therapy .

I've long considered myself a creative person, because I find expressing myself through written word enjoyable, unavoidable and often cathartic. But I have never considered myself a drawer or an artist.  So I attended Art Therapy with apprehension and a level of self-doubt.

There were a few people in the room, all with their different struggles and illnesses. And, on the board was the instruction for the class: "Artistically represent your relationship with yourself, both the positive and negative aspects". I stared at this statement for a few moments - my relationship with myself is a complicated topic! How was I expected to 'artistically represent' this complexity in an hour with some coloured pens and pencils?

But with time ticking away, I grabbed a piece of paper, and I just started drawing. The perfectionism with which I approach my writing disappeared. Unlike with my writing, I had no idea or expectation of the outcome, I just let my hands do the thinking. And, not considering myself an artist, I did not feel compelled to create a flawless work of art. It was a liberating experience.

My drawing is not perfect, and it's does not demonstrate any significant level of technical talent, but I was surprised at how well I managed to achieve the goal of the session - and I did it all without words. 

While words remain my weapon of choice, Art Therapy somehow allowed me to suppress my perfectionism and obsessive thinking - even if only for an hour! Art Therapy has given me a new method of communicating, both with others and, perhaps more importantly, myself.