Have you been feeling down in the dumps and not knowing how to pick yourself up? Does each day present the same fears, anxieties, and hope remains an evasive entity? The answer, or solution to bringing about a change of scene might lie in art.
“Art therapy can be an effective mental health treatment procedure for individuals who have experienced depression, trauma, medical illnesses, and social difficulties. Using art as a therapeutic tool, can be a way to achieve personal insights into problems and dilemmas, and to heal the scars of old sufferings,” says Dr Zahra Akbari and acomplished artist in Oman who propagates art as a formidable asset that not only brings forth creativity but also provides refinement of the human psyche.
Art therapists are trained to lead people through the creative process in a therapeutic way, she says. However, art therapy is not merely painting or drawing your emotions, rather it contributes to engaging and expressing the mind and heart in a free style movement.
Dr Zahra points out that the pandemic proved to be a challenging time for all humanity and it made people rethink about the shape of their lives, reinvent new concepts for communities, and reflect on our personalities and characters more thoroughly.
With the help of experts at the ‘Whispers of Serenity Clinic’, Dr Zahra started Art Therapy sessions for individuals and groups from a variety of genders, ages and nationalities to help them overcome their personal obstacles, reunite with their community and reshape their lives.
“We can use art as a medium beyond the barriers of written words as it is shared by all humans,” Dr Zahra says. “The humanistic approach towards art therapy helps us preserve the wellbeing and remember the human nature in challenging the environment.”
Art Therapy, although new and not well-known to many, is a scientific practice to heal the pain and suffering in normal life for children and adults of different ages. It tries to show that everyone has an inner artist and they can unleash their emotions and talents through simple media like art, she asserts.
The sessions encourages participants to come forth with concepts for creative expression and use art as a medium to find fulfillment through the task at hand.
“The therapy tries to show that everyone has an inner artist and they can unleash their emotions and talents through simple media like art. It awakens the talents and improves self-awareness and self-confidence,” Dr Zahra said, adding that she is assisted by a team of experts in art, psychology, and consultancy to help the community in the Sultanate of Oman.
Art therapy was developed by two mental health practitioners – Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer – who used it as a way to help clients tap into their inner thoughts, feelings and experiences through creative expression.
The therapist uses the patients’ free form art expressions to encourage them to talk about the images and to begin to look to themselves for meaning and insight.
Combined with ‘talk therapy’, it can help people deal with strong emotions, increase self-awareness and self-worth and decrease stress and anxiety. Art therapy can involve a variety of creative expression including drawing, painting, coloring or sculpting, to name a few.
Research findings show that art therapy helps reduce pain, decrease symptoms of stress and improve quality of life in adult cancer patients.
It also provides an improved ability to deal with pain and other frightening symptoms in children suffering from cancer or asthma, besides stimulating mental function in older adults with dementia as well as reducing depression in Parkinson’s patients.
Why did you feel the need to introduce art therapy?
Everyone has a social responsibility and as a researcher, artist and art therapist, I decided to initiate this with a new approach in Oman. Most of people consider art as a talent or a luxury which is out of their league. I want to show that everyone has an inner artist and they can unleash their emotions through a simple medium like art. I started with the movement of ‘Art for Public’ and then started ‘Art Therapy’ workshops for individuals and groups.
Which age group are you targeting? Is it designed differently for children and adults?
Art Therapy sessions are designed for individuals and groups from a variety of genders, ages and nationalities to help them overcome their personal obstacles, reunite with their community, and reshape their lives. Although it is new and not well-known to many, Art Therapy is a scientific practice to heal the pain and suffering in normal life for children and adults of different ages. The workshops have different approaches for children, young adults, adults and elderly. The instructor tries to involve all the participants in the practices of art and combines that with verbal expressions, music, singing and releasing emotions.
What are the immediate benefits and long term benefits? What are the participants asked to do?
The participants immediately feel better joining the session as it includes a hands-on method and everybody finds their own way of presentation. We try to address as many people as we can. In order to improve the self-confidence and self-esteem of individuals, we exhibit the works of participants in ‘Whispers of Serenity Clinic’ so they can discuss and express themselves. It is a helpful method to open up to public and see the results on the spot.
Does art therapy help general aptitude and intelligence?
Art therapy is not an art class. It aims to heal the internal wounds and heal the pain and suffering we may experience as human beings. However, various forms of art are used in the workshops and based on the age category, the participants can enjoy using artistic techniques in painting, drawing, singing, music and play-dough, pouring out their emotions and thoughts. The participants receive all the material in the workshop.
What is an art therapy session like?
The workshop consists of two sections. The first part is about the art practice through different material and techniques and the second part is about self-reflection and self-expression. The participants are provided with the tools and material, and so they are asked to choose whatever tools and materials they prefer. Then they focus on one personal emotion and express it in the way they like. The result is not a normal piece of art as per the classic definition but it is an outburst of inner emotions.
The therapist helps them use some easy techniques so they feel the sense of art. Then they are requested to discuss their feelings about their work and express their ideas. They are reminded that there is no judgement on their emotion or on their artwork, so they can freely express themselves.