Imagination and Mental Health: The Real Benefits of Art Therapy

When we hear about various creative fields like music, poetry, or the visual arts being used in therapy, we feel the urge to shun and judge what many consider New Age hocus-pocus. We have to remember though that they all have long histories of experimental trials and interventions. The pioneering theoretical expositions of the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung on the therapeutic possibilities of art (i.e. visual) helped in its validation as an alternative to the more cruel methods used in asylums.

The shift from asylums to mental hospitals was a crucial one in the establishment of the changes that were to take place in the twentieth century. The redirection of focus from procedural medication and diagnosis to healing and a more interpersonal approach to it provided the entry point for most alternative practices.

So how does art become a medium, or an outlet, so to speak, for people suffering from different mental health issues? Experts usually mention communication as one of the most common struggles of patients. The prospect of talking to another human being is daunting, demanding emotional and mental openness. Art can serve as an intermediary between the patient and the rest of the world. Jung talked about patients giving “visible form to the image” as a way of “doing something about it.”

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Obviously, learning a skill also promotes a sense of achievement and builds overall confidence, especially with the help of a supportive community that recognizes the tedious process of overcoming these mental problems but is resolved to wait for the patient to come to terms with the necessity of self-revelation in his or her own time.

Vijaya Prakash Boggala has written a number of medical abstracts for scholarly journals and enjoys doing acrylic and oil paintings in his spare time. You can learn more about his interests and professional bcakground by visiting this site.

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