Here, at the Recover Clinic, we view creativity as the antithesis of an eating disorder, anxiety, depression and a number of other mental health problems. Creative therapy helps you to connect with an authentic part of yourself, to express something unique to you and your experience in the world. Exploring your thoughts and feelings in imagery can offer distance and a different perspective, fostering awareness.
Many mental illnesses can be thought about as an internal system of thoughts driving particular feelings and behaviours. It can step in to mask painful experiences in your life, calling to you, causing you to withdraw from friends, family and things you used to enjoy. It cloaks your authentic self in layers of self doubt, criticising you, chipping away at your choices, your thoughts, your decisions and beliefs, eating away at your soul until you’re a shadow of your former self. It dims your light and life, killing creativity.
Creative therapy can help you to reconnect with the ‘you’ under those layers, the part of you inside that hopes and wonders if your life could be different – your true self. We are all born with an innate capacity for creativity. It helps us feel alive and connected to the world, to something bigger than ourselves. But it needs to be practiced to be a resource in your recovery. Coming to the creative and arts groups can help change the way you think about yourself, your creativity and the world. You don’t have to be an artist, be able to draw well, to be an actor or a dancer, or even be creative to benefit from this form of therapy.
The creative arts process is not about judging art; it is about self-exploration through play and creativity, and the expression of our feelings through imagery. It can start with noticing how a song makes you feel inside, noticing the colours in a sunset or choosing a new screensaver for your phone that makes you smile or perks you up. Anything that makes your heart sing!
Creative arts as therapy can be whatever you want it to be. Taking a therapeutic approach with art forms such as art, puppetry, sculpture/clay, poetry, sandplay, music and bodywork/movement enables us to provide a focus for sharing between client and therapist when trauma is too difficult to speak about. Creativity and psychotherapy are interconnected at a fundamental level: transformation, metamorphosis, change. (Zinker, 1977).
‘Creativity is the breaking of boundaries, the affirmation of life beyond life. Out of its own sense of integrity, life asks us to affirm our own intrinsic nature, our essence as human beings’ (Zinker).
For some clients, particularly at the beginning of creative therapies, making the first mark or move can at times be very difficult. Unfortunately we live our lives in a very judgemental society, where we are surrounded and bombarded with images on our phones, TV’s, posters, cinemas, shop fronts, digital advertising screens and computers, etc. We project onto these images. We make judgements about these images. So when it comes to creating our own art we may become very self critical: What if it doesn’t look good? What if it isn’t right? What if I look silly? What if I can’t do it? By learning to recognise and nurture your inner creativity, you can learn to resolve fear and heal emotional scars, so that you feel empowered and can strengthen your sense of self-confidence that extends beyond recovering and into living the life you want. You don’t have to worry that you’re not good enough at it or that what you create has to be perfect because it’s all about freedom to express yourself. That’s what makes it most powerful for you and anybody you choose to share it with.
Somewhere along the line many of our clients have been told that they aren’t artistic, and they’ve swallowed that idea whole. The notion that they could be creative is one that they disbelieve. Art, creativity and shame become linked and people often feel stuck and depressed because they have become cut off from a powerful resource.
It is not necessary to be artistic or have had any previous art therapy experience. The art process helps you to communicate non-verbally (through imagery) using the materials of your choice such as pens, pencils, crayons, paint, chalk, collage, glitter, clay or other textiles. It is about your inner experience (feelings, perceptions, imagination) and self-exploration (helping you to connect with yourself and the space/people/things around you). Doing this can bring to light some emotions you maybe weren’t in touch with and the clarity you’ve been searching for. Working with a therapist on this can also help you to make sense of your art if you can’t quite understand what it means (and that is absolutely okay to admit).
If you’re part of a group, you may be asked to focus on a particular theme or activity for the session. Alternatively, you might have a completely blank canvas (literally). For those with mental illness(es) who are dealing with many inner thoughts, being guided can really help to get the ball rolling and provide a sense of direction/purpose in an otherwise overwhelming mind. Remember, nobody will judge or blame you for then going off on a tangent – any form of art is about interpretation and imagination. It’s perfectly natural to need time to get started or for what you create to not have a ‘title’ or ‘label’ (we already have enough of those in the world anyway).
Through words or images, negative emotions such as anger, sadness, grief, emotional pain can be released. This shows how unresolved or difficult feelings from the past are often connected to the present. Even when clients give back a blank piece of paper at the end of an art therapy session it is ‘showing’ something about their feelings, and their experience of being in the world.
“The process of art therapy is based on the recognition that man’s most fundamental thoughts and feelings, derived from the unconscious, reach expression in images rather than words” – Naumburg
You don’t have to be a dancer to benefit from movement therapy. It is not necessarily a choreographed class (unless you would rather attend one of those) but is about creating an environment which allows you physical freedom to feel more in touch with your mind, body and emotions through body language, movement and non-verbal communication.
Many people lack confidence and feel that drama therapy is not the right therapy for them. This, however, is a good way to address thoughts, emotions and to explore difficult feelings or experiences/or past and present traumas. No experience in acting, theatre or drama is necessary. Through plays, storytelling, movement, improvisation, using props/puppets you can use your imagination and invent characters.
People who might benefit from music therapy are those struggling with low mood, those having difficulty coping each day, people who have problems relating to others and those who are surviving the effects of trauma.
It is an opportunity to explore ways of communicating and expressing feelings by exploring music and sound (both listening to music and making music which makes you happy, helps you relax and is therapeutic to you). Indulging in various types of music, tailored to you by your therapist can help you feel more in touch with yourself – exploring emotions through melodies and harmonies and/or promoting visualisations. It doesn’t matter if you can’t play a musical instrument or aren’t ready to work with a therapist either – use your voice, hit a spoon against a saucepan, jingle some wind-chimes, drum on the table or run your fingers along the panels of a radiator if you like!
All of these therapies can contribute to the healing process; it’s all about finding what works for you. That’s why we tailor our treatment programmes to you. To find out more about the groups we offer and how we can help you or a loved one here.