I feel very lucky to say that I am both a peer with lived experience with bipolar disorder and a licensed art therapist. In addition, the therapist I’m in regular treatment with is an art therapist herself.
During this pandemic, I have been able to use art therapy as a coping skill to soothe my (at times) overwhelming depression and anxiety and connect with my inner resources when I’ve felt intense loneliness and isolation.
Let me take a minute and fill in some background about art therapy in general and how it’s helped me in particular. Since the first half of the 20th century, Master’s level therapists have used visual arts materials such as paints, pastels, collage images, sculpting clay, markers, and pencils to facilitate the creativity of clients.
Art therapists assist people like you and me – as well as others who may deal with medical illnesses, the challenges of aging, PTSD, autism spectrum differences, or other conditions – to express their feelings and find their strengths. Many times our emotions truly lie beyond words and so they can be much better expressed in the language of art.
I should emphasize that no artistic skills are needed since the aim of art therapy is not to show talent but to show our thoughts and feelings. Art therapy services can be experienced in individual sessions or in groups – and whether I’ve participated as the therapist or the client, it has always been in the service of healing and growth.