Picasso had once said ‘Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life’.
Since time immemorial the different art forms have been very integral in our lives. They have been used to express, create, and communicate, even by our ancestors. Art is available to every one and is also within everyone. We all use art in our day-to-day life without being aware of it. In classrooms, children make paper planes (craft), while cooking a woman hums a song (music), in a boring conference a man doodles (drawing), we swing to a beat (dance and movement) and at some point we all daydream (imagery / imagination). It is natural for everyone to express himself or herself artistically, but we somehow curb these instincts and only let them surface briefly. This is done so unconsciously that we do not realize how healing art can be in our daily lives.
The art forms are non intrusive and often bypass the conscious cognitive mind and reach in to the subconscious mind. They are metaphorical and symbolic in nature. They renew and refresh us. But with the stressors of our daily life we are not able to pay enough attention to this natural healer we have within us, which is our ability to create and we don’t use this ability as freely as we could have.
All art forms are inherently therapeutic by nature. Art energizes us. It is meditative. It soothes when one is strained, it creates enthusiasm when life seems monotonous; it brings out whatever it is that we need at that moment. Art reaches deep into our subconscious and helps us get an insight into ourselves. It aids in dealing with stress and assists in leading a more meaningful life.The art forms make use of the right brain, which is intuitive, emotional, spontaneous and expressive. In our daily life we end up using more of the left-brain, which is analytical and logical. But balance is required. Art can bring about that balance in our life.
‘Arts- Based Therapy’ or ABT is an integrated use of different art forms to bring about healing, growth and change. It uses a combination of music, drama, movement, dance, imagery, poetry, visual art and storytelling. ABT is based on the understanding that each person possesses intellect, body, emotions and subtle energy fields. Each of these dimensions are created in alignment with the individual’s purpose in creation.
The aim of ABT is to bring each dimension in balance and release all interferences. Art forms such as (music, dance, drama, etc.) have the capacity to stimulate all of these dimensions of a human being. Art forms are known to be healers by themselves and thereby through the use of play, imagination and metaphors, an individual can, with the help of the therapist change perception or simulate alternative realities. An art therapist can be seen as a channel who assists in the healing of the individual.
ABT helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. ABT sessions are conducted at the individual as well as the group level.
Art gives the freedom of exploring and expressing the self without any boundaries of verbal expression. No formal training in any art form is required for a person to experience a session. What is created at the end of an ABT session is not important but the process of getting in touch with your inner self through the art forms is what is important.
ABT has been beneficial to people across the board, from different walks of life. It is widely used with children with special needs, with school and college students, in the corporate sector, for trauma healing, for meditative purposes, for treating emotional disturbances and it is complimentary in the treatment of developmental disabilities, neuro-physiological problems, psychological illnesses and several other it is used for relationship issues.
One example where I have used expressive arts with children is the Little Buddha Program conducted in Mumbai. This non-religious program, uses arts based therapy techniques and works towards the psychological, emotional and spiritual growth and wellbeing of a child. Through different art forms the children learn to understand emotions, and express them constructively creating a balance in their thoughts and actions. The intuitive capacities of the child get enhanced. They learn to recognize their own uniqueness. It is useful for developing creative skills, increasing attention span, focusing, skill enhancement and team building. It teaches them to be self-reliant, responsible and taking initiative for self-growth.
So we request you to invite art into your life and personally experience the joy it can bring you.