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Art For Therapy

Updated on October 20, 2017

Art can be good for therapy for those with mental illness.

That is why there are art programs, especially at mental hospitals. It works. Check for art therapy programs in your area. They are usually covered by insurance.

I have had art therapy both inpatient and outpatient. I have always enjoyed these classes. There are always new and fun projects to work on. Painting masks and boxes, collaging, drawing, general painting, are just a few of the projects that I have done in art therapy.

The classes are popular and usually fill up quickly. So arrive or sign up early or you may miss your spot.

You don't have to go to a class for art therapy. You can do it at home if you have the materials. Paint can be inexpensive, you don't need to buy the best brands of colors and brushes. You aren't expected to be a professional. It's for relaxation and expression.

It's still possible, even if you don't have extra space for a "studio". Keep your supplies in a box and work at the kitchen table. The point is to have fun and enjoy yourself.

Stress relief

Creating art can be a calming activity. It is great for anxiety, and can reduce stress. Painting and other creative activities can be very meditative. I've noticed I get "in the zone" when I am painting. It is almost as good as meditation.

Painting uses both mental and physical skills. It involves all of you. I reserve painting for the late afternoons and evenings, the time I have the best chance at relaxing. I schedule it in. Even if I don't feel like it at the moment, once I am into it for a few minutes, the relaxation starts to take effect. The repetitive motions, the mixing of colors, it all works together to get me in a calm state of mind. This works in art therapy classes as well. I can forget where I am and just enjoy for a little while. I prefer to work on my art alone, but being around other people doesn't bother me that much once I am in the zone.

Art therapy is a good tool to have in your arsenal in fighting depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.


Art therapy can be a good distraction. Distraction is a coping mechanism I learned in coping skills class at the hospital while I was inpatient. The point is to keep your mind focused on something else, rather than your anxieties. It's not a substitute for dealing with your problems, just a mechanism to keep your mind occupied so you are not dwelling on things you have no control over.

If I am thinking of my art projects, I am not thinking about my hallucinations or worries. My mind is occupied with something else. I have other methods of distraction, but art is more interesting than such things as cleaning or organizing, or going over my shopping list.

I spent several years away from creating any art. I got back into it during art therapy class at the hospital. I realized it really works for me. The other patients seemed to really like it too. It was the favorite class, with many patients joining in. I also occasionally go to art therapy class on an outpatient basis. I wish I could go more, but it is quite a drive, and during a time when it's not easy to get a ride there. So I do it at home instead.

Letting Emotions Out

Art therapy is a good way to express your emotions in a safe manner. You can put it all on paper, where it won't cause any problems. You can focus your emotions on your art, letting out any undesirable emotions such as fear or anger. This is an appropriate outlet for releasing pent up emotions and frustrations

You can also express positive emotions in your art. It doesn't just have to be about negativity. I find it is productive to put my heart into my work. Your emotions really do come out on the canvas. This is one way to share with others how you feel. It is a form of communication with other people, which is great for those who have trouble expressing their emotions in the usual manner.


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