The Connection Between Art & Emotion

For centuries, humans have used artistic expression as a means of communicating stories, ideas and documenting significant events. As art became an important fixture in culture and in history, it was accepted and widely celebrated that art and the expression of emotions were synonymous with each other.

The Origins of Formal Art Therapy

The formal practice of art therapy has its origins in the mid-20th century Europe, with the coining of the term being attributed to British artist Adrian Hill in 1942.

At a time where thousands suffered in sanatoriums from tuberculosis, it was observed that drawing and painting was a creative outlet for patients that provided them the freedom their confines did not.

The practices in art therapy soon spread to mental hospitals through the work of Edward Adamson, who observed and further studied the connection between artistic expression and emotional release. The British Association of Art Therapists was founded in 1964.

Spreading Art Therapy Worldwide

Art therapy was being practiced in the United States around the same time, with the most influential North American practitioners being educator Margaret Naumburg and artist Edith Kramer.

Naumburg linked art to the expression of the unconscious through free association. Kramer became an important figure in laying the groundwork for art therapy education. The American Art Therapy Association was founded in 1969.

More organizations around the world modelled themselves after these associations, including the Professional Association for Art Therapy in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore which has evolved in practice and its geographic scope since its inception in 1987.

Rooting Itself in Education

As more ground was gained in the field of art therapy, it grew important roots in the field of education and approaches used in child psychotherapy. By employing art therapy within the therapeutic process, children are able to express feelings through their art in times of underdeveloped or limited vocabulary.

The practice of art therapy has gained ground as a solid psychotherapy practice and approach within education by practitioners all over the world.

Research and Innovation in the Field

It’s been widely studied and observed how art therapy is effective to treat trauma, abuse, grief, anxiety, and eating disorders. It is a helpful tool to alleviate stress through major life transitions and eases pain and suffering associated with mental, physical and emotional diseases.

By working to bring the conscious, unconscious and subconscious into expressive and tangible forms, the creative processes involved in art therapy have been praised for their ability to encourage personal growth, mindfulness, and self-discovery.

As art therapy education continues to develop within the world’s top higher education institutions, new forms of research and practice are being developed that blend art therapy and other methods of psychotherapy. These innovations are being researched, documented and shared across the community of practice worldwide.

It’s the belief that through the application of the creative process through art therapy and other methods such as play therapy, mindfulness exercises, and using tools such as sand-tray, people achieve a greater sense of personal well-being.

Written By Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic