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Art Therapy is generally described as a unique, enjoyable, and highly illuminating experience. It is particularly useful in instances where talk therapy is either ineffective or insufficient. Art therapy helps people with mental, emotional, or behavioural problems (such as depression or anorexia), learning or physical disabilities, life-limiting conditions, physical illness, brain injury, or neurological disorders (such as autism). It has also proven to be therapeutic for individuals of all ages who have trouble verbally articulating or expressing emotions and thoughts.
Art therapy is a psychotherapeutic treatment that uses art media as its primary form of communication. It employs visual art equipment such as clay, paper, paints, and other artistic materials to create visual forms of personal expression. Due to the uniqueness of each person’s creative experience and output, it is difficult to quantify the experience and standardize assessment. The therapeutic effects become apparent in the treatment of certain weaknesses and cultivation of strengths that talk therapy alone does not fully address. These are:
Imagination/abstract thinking skills are developed through a concrete, visual format that allows both creativity and flexibility.
Visual/spatial abilities – such as hand-eye coordination, mental rotation, and mental mapping – or the lack of them are revealed and addressed. Drawing is one method used for this purpose. Autistic individuals sometimes exhibit exceptional abilities in this area.
Sensory regulation and integration, or the exploration and assimilation of one’s sensory experiences, are done in a safe and enjoyable setting. In addition, persons with autistic disorders benefit from the calming, regulating effects on their bodies.
Emotions and self-expression are communicated in ways that are nonverbal yet productive. Colors and lines suggest feelings and intensity levels. Drawings and sculptures demonstrate how an individual perceives things and situations.
Recreation/leisure skills are enhanced. Art therapy is a recreational activity that motivates individuals to develop life skills such as self-direction, industriousness, patience, and pride in one’s work.
Developmental growth that is delayed or atypical (unusual) in persons with or without autism can hinder a person’s full potential. Art therapists help the client improve drawing and other artistic skills, fine motor skills, and social/relational skills.
Art therapy is available for groups as well as individuals. Clients are not required to have previous experience or expertise in art. Output is evaluated more on the basis of symbolic significance than aesthetic value. This therapy views the process of art-making itself as therapeutic.
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