Art as Therapy – Finding a cure in crafts – words Alexa Wang
It’s well known that relaxing with arts and crafts can ease anxiety and even temporarily reduce the feeling of depression in adults and offers children a release from the stress of learning.
Producing something also gives us that sense of satisfaction and self-respect that we don’t feel that often in this day and age.
Crafts also teach us about patience again, we live in a world of instant gratification. So to make something that takes time and care teaches us to be patient, disciplined and determined in our work ethic. As well as helping healthy people with stress management, craft and art as therapy – including everything from colouring in to fabric paints – can help those in the elderly spectrum and people who are autistic.
Helping people with autism
Autism is a neurological condition that is present at birth; the exact cause is still relatively unknown. The symptoms of autism include repetitive or compulsive behaviours, social impairment, problems with communication and trouble processing sensory information.
Expressive art therapy activities really helps those living with autism. Due to finding communication via speech difficult, it allows a way for these individuals to express their feelings and communicate without frustration. For autistic people, a lot of their behaviour that other people may see as unusual is the result of them finding certain sensations disturbing. The Art of the Autism explains that seemingly innocuous sensations, “such as the texture of carpet, fluorescent lighting, crunchy foods, the hum of a refrigerator, may be irritating, or even excruciating, to people with autism.”
So with this in mind, one of the most common goals in art therapy is to make these unpleasant sensations more tolerable. Art of Autism went on to confirm; “A child might find that he or she can actually cope with handling slimy, paste-covered strips of newspaper, for instance, when it’s part of a fun papier-mâché craft project.” Repeatedly confronting these stimuli’s that the children prefer means that they are desensitised and can eventually bear them in daily life. Art therapy ideas for self esteem really works.
These methods aren’t just being used to help children either; in Kent there is a new day service called Artrack, which provides a creative art space for adults on the autistic spectrum. There are a variety of different crafts available for attendees to get involved in including painting, printing, sculpture, fabric painting and embroidery. The aim of the Artrack project is to provide autistic people with the opportunity to relax, have fun, try new things and build a sense of community with the other people who go. They hope to eventually be able to exhibit the creations after previous success elsewhere in the country.
Keeping the elderly interested
Art is also being used to help elderly people in care keep both physically and mentally active. Taking up art can be rewarding but also a lengthy distraction from the constant aches and pains that most elderly people suffer from.
It has also been suggested that art provides elderly people with creative expression and critical thinking skills, concrete goals to work towards, and a sense of fulfilment upon completion of a project. So it’s a lot more than just producing a pretty knitted hat or painting. The fact that arts and crafts can bring happiness into people’s lives who are suffering shows how important it is that it reaches those in need, to give them at least a couple of hours of peace and tranquillity.
Art as therapy ideas have also been shown to be an effective treatment for patients with dementia. The word dementia describes a range of symptoms that include memory loss, difficulty thinking, problem solving or communicating with languages and mood swings. Dementia is caused when diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes, damage the brain.
Similar to the treatment of autism, art therapy helps dementia sufferers by providing a non-verbal mode of expression through visual and creative presentation. This helps them vent negative emotion and frustration, momentarily alleviating the behavioural and psychological symptoms and improving their quality of life.
The basics to understanding the power of art as therapy is to distinguish between the patient’s creative forms. According to science, art therapy can be divided into two forms: structural and non structural. In structural therapy, there will be some guidance as to what materials and techniques should be used, whereas in non-structural therapy the patient can choose anything from knitting to fabric paints and this is more about stimulating creativity.
Art therapy can be applied to anyone as a method of healing, from depression through to dementia, its power is unmeasured and completely down to each individual. To take on such treatment, one would need a large range of crafts to offer freedom of choice to people taking part. Homecrafts offer just this; a great selection of art materials and craft essentials.
Studies show that individuals who have a need for control are more likely to choose pencils and pens, whereas painting including fabric paints and glass painting are more likely to be an emotional choice. Clay and collage or arts that require more experience show that the person is a confident artist.
Art therapy is a supporting treatment to traditional therapy, it offers those living with autism an outlet to explore their capabilities and even give them a new way of communicating. The approach is gaining momentum, but is not yet standard practice even though it does such good.
For now, if you care for an autistic child don’t hesitate to grab the craft kit and allow them to choose what they want to make art with. Understand that they will need to try various techniques, to discover what their senses can deal with. But still, it’s incredible the good that a simple few hours spent with a paintbrush in hand and the freedom to create whatever the heart desires can do!
Art as Therapy – Finding a cure in crafts – words Alexa Wang