Art as Therapy
Tibetan monks build a Mandala full of symbols at the Von Liebig Center in Naples, FL. On the back, there is an image of the Dalai Lama. The mandala's healing purpose is to fill this city with compassive feelings. After endless hours working on it, the monks dismantled the mandala just a few minutes after finishing the detailed art piece to remind us that everything is impermanent
The therapeutic use of art
Fine and performing arts can be used as a therapeutic tool by professionals who practice psychotherapy, school counseling, and occupational therapy.
Art has for thousands of years been used as a tool for expression of the psyche and also as a tool for communication.
Recently, a group of Tibetan monks, visited Naples (Florida) and spent several days building a mandala considered to have healing properties. It was created with colored sand brought from India were the community of these monks has found refuge. The monks worked on the big circle (three foot diameter) in a meditative state, silently and completely focused on their doing and their intention to bring the gift of compassion to this city. They also wanted to protect the city from the devastating effects of hurricanes (hurricane season goes from June 1 to Nov 30 in Florida).
Learning the skills necessary to produce these mandalas is an old tradition in Tibet and India that takes years of patience and dedication.
The Sanskrit word Mandala means circle. According to the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, the process of making the mandala, help the doer in becoming inwardly aware of the deity. Through contemplation, he recognizes himself as God again, and thus returns from the illusion of individual existence into the universal totality of the divine state.
Similar to this, in the United States, the Navaho still use sand paintings with healing purposes. Shamans everywhere in the world have used art to facilitate their relationship with their gods. Art has also been used in psychology for assessment and in the mental health field as part of the rehabilitation of patients. There are different approaches to the therapeutic use of art, from behavioral to sychodynamic, including humanistic approaches.
The elements in the work of art might be understood by the therapist or the educator as symbols that express unconscious meanings, within the context of the circumstances of the one producing the art. The cathartic quality of the art making has been used to facilitate healing with children who have gone through traumatic experiences.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, Art Therapy is the therapeutic use of art making within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living and by people who seek personal development. The purpose in using art in therapy is to help the patient achieve increase awareness and eventually experience life at its fullest. Art Therapists are trained in both art and psychotherapy and have experienced the transformational process facilitated by the art making on themselves.
Click on the link to read more about the therapeutic use of art.
Click here to go the American Art Therapy Association website
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