The Art of the Brain:" How Art Therapy Affects Mental Health Disorders | Teen Ink

The Art of the Brain:" How Art Therapy Affects Mental Health Disorders

June 18, 2019
By Dyarmah BRONZE, Columbia, Maryland
Dyarmah BRONZE, Columbia, Maryland
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Talk therapy is a branch of psychotherapy and is often the model people envision of therapy. Talk therapy and Art therapy work to rehabilitate various mental disorders in different ways, providing individuals with options to be considered when determining the best treatment for them. Because it allows for independent, creative, and cost-effective rehabilitation art therapy is more effective in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression than talk therapy.

Art therapy as a branch of psychotherapy is not very well known in comparison to talk therapy. Art therapy is a therapeutic method that uses creative outlets such as art, music, and writing to rehabilitate mental health disorders (Good Therapy, 2016). The method was first introduced to the world of therapy during the 1940s when therapy practices became more prevalent in society, Margaret Naumburg is credited with spearheading the movement. There are two main types of art therapy, art as the therapy itself and art as psychotherapy. Art as therapy is when the physical creation of art helps to rehabilitate mental health disorders. Art therapy is very versatile in its usage, as it can offer help not only in the solving of mental health disorders but also in the detection (Finnegan, 2009). A popular example of art therapy is the use of ink prints, purposed to assist in the diagnostics in patients through various reactions to ink blots. and persons with autism, dementia, depression, and other disorders” (American Art Therapy Association, 2016).

Psychotherapy, by definition, is any sort of therapy that does not use medicine to rehabilitate its patients (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Talk therapy stems from the idea of psychoanalysis, a concept developed alongside Sigmund Freud, is the image that comes to mind upon the mention of therapy (Verywellmind,2018). The effectiveness of talk therapy depends on the relationship between the therapist and the patient themselves, “ It's a good model if people are oriented towards talk therapy, I will say that” (Holley, 2019). 75% of those who enter talk therapy end up benefiting from the sessions, showing that talk therapy is helpful when it comes to rehabilitating mental health disorders in patients. Disorders like anxiety and depression are not always caused by a lag in neurotransmitters, as social and cultural situations influence the development of these disorders, but medical treatment does not seem to be as effective in rehabilitation as psychotherapy (art and talk therapy). Art therapy helps to stimulate the brain, alongside the prefrontal cortex, which makes interpersonal communication more effective. This issue expands into depression and anxiety as there is not enough information to draw quantitative conclusions on the effectiveness of art or talk therapy when it comes to rehabilitating anxiety and depression. “(...) Will lead to more reliable and robust observations that finally can piece together the diagnosis-specific clinical implications of functional and structural alterations in patients who have mood and anxiety disorders” (The Neurobiology, 2009).

Art therapy and psychotherapy effect anxiety and depression in very different ways. Art therapy can help reduce anxiety through de-stressing an individual before bed, reducing panic attacks, and allowing one’s mind to wander from all the misgivings of life. Art therapy affects depression by allowing patients to feel more upbeat and optimistic, by looking at art that induces feelings of happiness. “Coloring the symmetrical form of the mandala with its repeating patterns and complexity purportedly helps to draw individuals into a state similar to meditation” (Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association,2005). Art therapy can be helpful for more disorders, farther than anxiety or depression. Some people are not able to color for twenty minutes straight, while others experience issues deciding what to draw or how to draw those images, only eliciting stress in an individual. This connects to the fact that those with anxiety and depression often feel a disconnect between themselves and their senses, art therapy is able to use sensory details and stimulation through color, and brush strokes to complete this connection. Using art therapy over talk therapy is also very helpful as speaking about one’s problems is harder for people than writing or drawing emotions. Art therapy is very extensive, as it includes music and dance therapy as well, allowing the patient’s more options if they are not able to take it out. In children who do not have the cognitive and emotional capacity to verbalize in psychotherapy (talk therapy) art therapy and play therapy have proven to be a successful form of treatment, allowing the child to address and verbalize their emotions in a safe way they can process.Through its extensiveness and ability to connect mentality and sensory details, art therapy can improve interpersonal communication, allowing the usage of talk therapy to increase as well. Improvement in communication would allow patients to become more open about issues and stresses that they face in daily life, making those patients more open to sharing their feelings and emotions with other people, even in non-therapeutic situations.

Unlike art therapy, talk therapy is able to elicit confidence and bravery within patients. Talk therapy has an effect on depression by allowing patients to reveal their inner turmoil, improve communication, and feel safer and more comfortable. Talk therapy relies on the collaboration between a therapist and a patient to come up with a process that is able to help rehabilitate that patient by identifying (mental) than girls. Talk therapy and art therapy are two branches of psychotherapy that can help rehabilitate patients with anxiety and depression, which are two complicated illnesses that must receive treatment, by using the method that is suitable for each individual suffering with the illness.

Art therapy is the more effective rehabilitation solution when compared to talk therapy, mainly due to the creative factor it adds to treatment. Talk therapy allows for open communication, but if a patient is not willing or has no interest in opening up and joining a conversation, it is nearly impossible for this therapy to work. If a patient has a hard time with communication or is diagnosed with a social disorder, it is less likely that he/she would be open or feel comfortable in a group setting or even speaking one on one with a therapist alone, so art therapy might be a better option for this patient.


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