Art, Music, and Writing- Therapy of the Future

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Some of the world’s greatest creative minds- including Winston Churchill, Vincent Van Gogh, and Ernest Hemingway-have suffered from mental disorders. Through art, music, and writing, these artists were able to express their views, emotions and experiences. Today, treatments for mental disorders include psychotherapies, medications, and group sessions, but one very important aspect of the mind isn’t being addressed as much. The artistic facet of the brain is very important to human happiness and peace of mind. The term “art therapies” can include art, music, and creative writing treatments. Art therapies help with the communication and expression of emotions or situations, and therefore should be mandatory services provided in mental hospitals.

Art therapies allow patients to better communicate emotions and memories, thus increasing the likeliness of progress. These emotions and memories are stored in the right side of the brain, while communication skills and logic are stored on the left side. For psychotherapy to be effective, “it has to get into the right brain. Creating art is a fast way to access the right brain and the emotions stored there” (Hontz). Music therapies have also been proved effective. They are used to “provoke responses due to the familiarity, predictability, and feelings of security associated with (the music)” (“Music Therapy and Mental Health”). Through music, trained therapists can help examine patients’ physical, psychological, and cognitive awareness or feelings. Art therapies have also been proven extremely helpful for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Hontz). By designing sessions that are specific to an individual or a certain group of individuals, art and music therapists are able to help patients interpret their emotions, thus making progress in cognitive therapy sessions.

The expression of emotions through art therapies makes people with mental disorders gain a sense of confidence and acceptance. Many of the people in artistic fields who suffer from mental disorders have negative feelings- the feelings of self-doubt and hopelessness and loneliness and sadness. Justin Furstenfeld, the lead singer and lyricist of the band Blue October suffers from bipolar disorder and depression. His only escape was through listening to “musicians (that) were touching me and helping me through times” (Furstenfeld). He admits that he “always found [himself] just feeling like there was a cloud over [his] head all the time. And the only way that [he] could feel good about it was to sit down and write in [his] journal. If [he] used these poems that [he] used for therapy for myself and put them to music and got on stage, that would be the most amazing thing” (“Blue October Argue with a Tree”). A writer for Psychology Today confessed that writing a poem about her miscarriage helped her feel better, “and that was true from the moment [she] put it to paper, which was well before [she] ever showed it to anyone” (Andrews). She also explores the attraction that people who have mental disorders have toward art and, specifically, poetry. There are no set rules one must follow. There are not set guidelines one must use. There is a sense of freedom and control, with “rich opportunities for distortion (strange imagery) and fragmentation (incomplete thoughts)” (Andrews). Creating music, art, and writing helps free feelings and constructs a sense of accomplishment that are being withheld by the patient. Turning the negative feelings into something positive helps the patients build confidence.

Creative therapies are legitimate methods of therapy for people with mental disorders. The controversy hidden behind art therapies may make it sound like “a diversion, doodling, or baby-sitting” (Hontz). The scientific research concerning mental disorders and creative or artistic remedies proves the connection’s validity. Bipolar disorder, for example, affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which influence creativeness (Flaherty). Mental hospitals- from the Chestnut Ridge Center in West Virginia (Byrd) to Laurel Ridge Treatment Center in San Antonio- are beginning to provide these services to their patients because these treatments are working (“Laurel Ridge Treatment Center”). By conducting more therapy sessions involving art therapies, scientists are discovering “it’s not just entertainment” (Hontz).
Making art, music, and writing therapies mandatory programs in mental institutions would mean getting to the core of problems patients are facing faster and easier than using psychotherapy alone. The expression of emotions and experiences through art, music, and writing provides the patients and doctors an easier, more therapeutic means of treatment. The patients’ times in mental hospitals are used for healing and self-reflection, and what better way to express this than make art?





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