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The Art and Science of Art Therapy

The research shows that doing any kind of art can reduce cortisol levels in the body (aka "the stress hormone.) When our clients come to us, many of them have no intention of doing "art therapy" because often they feel that they "can't draw" or are "not good at art." But the benefits of stress reduction are not dependent upon innate artistic talent. That's the good news from the science front - we can all benefit from this modality whether we are gifted with the ability to draw intricate portraits or, like me, just rudimentary stick figures.

Doing something artistic, even it's just coloring in an adult coloring book, can serve us in several ways. The act of creating some form of art serves as a form of meditation, even pushing some of us into a "flow state," which is a state where one loses a sense of time and feels totally immersed in the creative process. Being in a flow state can be incredibly re-vitalizing and help people to re-ground in the face of multiple daily life stressors. Creating something artistic also serves as a distraction tool from ruminative worries. When you're focused on what you're creating, it's hard to also continue to worry about that disapproving glance that you thought your boss gave you that day. Art gives the "worried brain" a break.

Engaging in artistic endeavors also helps to solidify a sense of self-identity. Having an artistic hobby or interest can potentially increase our self-esteem and provide us with a deeper understanding of ourselves.

Often, we may think, "I'm wasting time," or "I should be doing something more ‘productive.' So, it’s important that we understand about the many benefits of doing creative endeavors to effectively combat those sabotaging thoughts. Sometimes, to be more productive, we need to stop pushing forward all the time. Even a small amount of time each week disengaging via art, can help us to feel more ready to tackle the daily challenges we all face.

In seeking formal psychotherapy, art therapy is particularly helpful for those that may have difficulty verbalizing their feelings. Board-certified art therapists are trained to guide a client to make meaning of their creations and to discover the relationship between what the client draws and what may be happening in their inner world.

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