You may ask “what is art therapy?” It is general wisdom that everyone is born with some innate creative ability. Unfortunately, many of us fail to nurture this ability, and or, stop exercising it. Perhaps we noticed that others were more talented than ourselves, and due to this we became discouraged. Therefore, art therapy is an opportunity to get in touch with our creativity again, and allow it to help us in challenges we may be facing.
Whatever our reasons for considering ourselves limited in creativity, CooperRiis identifies creativity as one of its seven core recovery domains. The seven domains represent facets of a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle, factors widely seen as instrumental in supporting whole person recovery. CooperRiis supports and encourages creativity through various programs in our healing community.
Nurturing Creativity on the Farm through Art Therapy
We nurture creativity on the Farm through a weekly art therapy group, in addition to open studio time. We use various materials, such as paints, clay, chalks, linens, yarn, or stained glass to engage cognitive, perceptual, sensory, kinetic, symbolic in addition to emotional expressions from residents. Because of this risk taking in art making and exploration is encouraged. Visual metaphors can be developed and used to allow for new insights. For instance, transforming anxieties, symptoms, challenges, or trauma into art can be therapeutic.
Furthermore, because art making is largely non-verbal, it is often an excellent tool for authentic self-expression. Letting down one’s defenses and expressing oneself creatively, as a result often leads to a creative connectedness with others. One resident in particular shared that although she’d experienced art therapy in a former treatment center she’d been in, “it was nothing like the art therapy at CooperRiis.”
In her article entitled “The Path to Wholeness: Person-Centered Expressive Art Therapy” on psychotherapy.net with Natalie Rogers, a pioneer of expressive arts therapy and the daughter of well known therapist Carl Rogers states, “when using the arts for self-healing or therapeutic purposes, we are not concerned about the beauty of the visual art, the grammar and style of the writing, or the harmonic flow of the song. We use the arts to let go, to express, and to release…. We can gain insight by studying the symbolic and metaphoric messages. Our art speaks back to us if we take the time to let in those messages.”
Inspiring New Artists
CooperRiis celebrates artistic expression regularly. Family Education Weekend, a four-day psychoeducational program offered to residents and their family members, recently showcased creativity. An art show allowed our residents to proudly show their work. Some residents produced pieces specifically for the show, while others shared works created in art groups. Pottery, paintings, collages, jewelry, photography, sculpture, woodworking, knitting and crocheting were all mediums on display. Many artists had their work for sale and were delighted when family members and staff purchased pieces. Many visiting family members commented about how impressed they were with the “high level of talent” on display. We concur!
In addition to art therapy’s therapeutic benefits, studies have shown that art making alone can dramatically reduce stress, and increase relaxation as well. Therefore take a cue from our residents, our staff and Natalie Rogers; go express yourself!