By PAC Art Therapist Courtney Chandler
Since its emergence in 1969, art therapy is a growing mental health field that uses traditional processes of therapy integrated with creative expression. Today, art therapy is widely practiced in a variety of settings, including churches, homeless shelters, and community centers.
How does art therapy benefit individuals that are experiencing homelessness? Here are three ways:
1. Art making can be a meaningful activity with therapeutic benefits.
Research has demonstrated that art therapy is a unique tool for reducing stress and anxiety, resolving inner afflictions, healing from grief, increasing self-esteem and wellbeing, and working through maladjusted behaviors, addictions, or other mental-health conditions.
2. Therapeutic art making in a group setting provides positive community connection, while allowing individuals to express themselves with personal autonomy. Art therapy provides a safe space for life stories to be seen and heard.
Unfortunately, individuals experiencing homelessness are often battling mental illness, trauma, and challenging life circumstance that can leave them feeling dehumanized, unworthy, or unfit for society. Art therapy provides a creative outlet for individuals to share their thoughts, emotions, and stories in empowering ways. In a group setting, meaningful connections are made as individuals connect through their vulnerability.
3. Creating meaningful artwork can promote self-worth and give rise to feelings of pride and accomplishment.
Learning new skills promotes self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, expressive art making can be a joyful activity that has mood-boosting benefits. Being able to recognize, ‘Wow, I’ve created something from nothing’ is a tangible metaphor for what is possible in other areas of life.