What is Art Therapy?

     drawing handsArt is another language to express ourselves, our experiences & our understanding of things. It can allow us another perspective or way of seeing. When we go through hardships, trauma and difficulties in our lives we absorb those experiences on many layers; mental, emotional and physical. So it makes sense we need to process them on various levels also. Most of us learn to compartmentalize our emotions, stuff them away neatly because we get the message that its not ok to show messy emotions. And sometimes we even internalize that we shouldn’t have them at all. Using Art Therapy can be invaluable tool for helping to get in touch with those blocked emotions. If you have ever found that you are talking something out and going in circles because you are trying to reason your way through your feelings Art therapy can be a great way to explore and unearth buried emotions.

     The emotional pain can be so overwhelming that it can feel like ‘Pandora’s box’ and we reflexively “batten down the hatches.” So it is especially vital for you to have an awareness of your capacity to feel your emotions with a sense of agency so that you are not being paralyzed by them. Part of my role as Therapist is to use my presence and support to create a holding environment; where you will have an awareness of being grounded,  in control and feeling less alone.  We will also use the art-making process for containment; which is a tangible way of reaffirming that sense of being grounded.  A skilled Art Therapist can aid you in gauging the intensity of emotional exploration that is most useful for you at that time. This means that I will be intentional by choosing specific art materials, directives and techniques while checking in with you to calibrate that balance between feeling nurtured and safe & working past emotional road blocks.

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The Neuroscience behind Art Therapy

In the book, ‘Being a brain-wise therapist ‘ B. Badenoch describes how when working with imagery, we are able to tap into the right side of our brain which is correlated to emotions, non-verbal, symbolic, metaphoric and more directly linked to the preconscious. The evocative qualities of artistic expression then naturally foster access to affect or emotional expression. Through the support of Art Therapy we are able to integrate our right and left brain in merging affect, emotional experiences and meaning making. It is through this integration that we are able to fully experience our emotions and therefore move with them out of emotional stuckness.   

                                    -Jess Dale  MA, LMHC, ATR


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