Art Therapy -Creative Interventions in Counselling

“I just can’t explain how I’m feeling” is so often whispered by someone in the midst of surviving the multiple challenges of experiencing cancer. Counselling is most valuable at this time, having someone to speak with and provide support and guidance to cope and make sense of this new, changed environment. When thoughts and feelings become entangled and overwhelming, words may become too difficult or a person may just feel more comfortable with non-verbal expression. 

Artwork by Beverley Glissenaar (2013)

When incorporating Art Therapy into counselling, a person is able to express their thoughts, emotions and experiences in a creative way that’s guided by their needs and preferences at that time.

"Art making, as an ancient form of healing, is shown to facilitate insight, personal growth and transformation and is considered by many as ‘medicine for the soul’ " (McNiff, 1992)

Art Therapy provides a bridge to connect a person’s unique internal thoughts, feelings and perceptions with their external realities (Malchiodi, 2007; Hagood, 2000; McNiff, 1992) and is used in various ways within medical environments to help people experiencing physical illness, having surgery or drug interventions and experiencing psychological and emotional difficulties (Malchiodi, 2007).

The artwork may include body drawings, symbols for health, drawing and writing journals, sand painting, clay work and more. Art Therapy is often accompanied by guided visualisations to connect one’s mind with their imagination in a relaxing, meditative way, assisting with spontaneous creativity from a deeper, unconscious level.

As the artwork is viewed objectively by the artist, clarity and meaning in their story can become evident. Dialogue with the artwork often reveals profound insights resulting in further exploration, understanding and sensations of intense relief.

The benefits of Art Therapy can continue to unfold after the creative expression and according to Malchiodi (2007), Hagood (2000) and McNiff (1992) research has shown that expressing traumatic or disturbing experiences in art contributes to overall health and wellbeing.