In several years of working as an art therapist, I have often heard some variation of the following:
“I’m not creative, my brain doesn’t work like that.”
“I can’t do art.”
“I’m not any good at drawing.”
These comments are usually made in an anxious and apprehensive tone. Somewhere along the way, it seems, many of us learned to believe that we weren’t creative and that if we couldn’t produce professional, studio-grade works of art, then we had no right to call ourselves creative, let alone artists.
There are a few basic principles that I believe as an art therapist. Contrary to what many people may believe—or have learned to believe— about themselves, I feel that everyone is innately creative. We are all inherently creative beings. Too often we have been taught to define creativity in a limited and narrow standard that causes us to overlook our own creativity. Regardless of what society tells us, artists are not the only ones who are creative. There are likely hundreds of ways that you employ creativity every day without even realizing it—from the clothes you choose to wear, to the way you creatively select ingredients when you cook, to the way you creatively problem solve a solution to your toddler’s tantrum at bedtime. In art therapy, we are encouraged to take a broader look at how we define creativity, and we operate under the assumption that all people are naturally creative – simply through the way they live their lives.
Another essential principle in art therapy is placing emphasis on the artistic process rather than on the final artistic product. All too often our society gives us the message that the final outcome is what’s most important. However, without placing emphasis on the journey itself, we all too often miss opportunities for valuable insight and growth!
In the case of art therapy, a client may create an abstract painting that didn’t turn out as they originally planned. Yet with the support of the art therapist, the client may realize that through the process of painting, they were able to feel freer, fluid, open, and connected to the expression of their emotions. Had the client focused only on the final art product itself, they wouldn’t have gained this important insight.
The final (and perhaps most important) principle that I operate on as an art therapist is the belief that the creative process IS healing. When we are authentically engaged in a creative process, there is a flow state that occurs—where we become completely engaged in the present moment, open and relaxed as we engage in the process of creation. In this state of mindfulness, the right-brain chatter shuts off and we enter into a left-brain space of awareness and receptivity. This is part of the magic that unfolds through engaging our creativity!
The creative process also serves to reduce stress, to promote emotional expression and catharsis, and to externalize feelings into a tangible form that can make events feel more manageable. Creating art can enhance self-esteem and foster self-awareness. As an art therapist, I harness these benefits of the creative process and more within an art therapy session for the benefit of my client.
If this sounds fascinating, liberating, challenging, exciting, or if you’re just curious to see what your inner O’Keefe or Van Gogh has to say about your inner life and consciousness and the state you are in currently, why not engage with our resident Art Therapist, Purandev Kaur, and experience Expressive Arts Therapy at Stella Luna Counseling and Wellness. You’ll enjoy the experience, and begin to unlock the deeper you in the process!
Masters Degree – Art Therapy and Counseling
Purandev believes we are all innately creative beings. Whether we are actively creating art or haven’t picked up a paintbrush in years, all of us carry a spark of creativity within us that can be ignited anytime. She is a credentialed Art Therapist with the Art Therapy Credentials’ Board and received her Masters Degree in Art Therapy and Counseling from Eastern Virginia Medical School. She emphasizes the creative process over the final art product and combines traditional CBT and DBT techniques into art therapy sessions. “I am a true believer in the healing power of creativity.”