Creative therapy is a calming practice that enriches an individual’s life by giving them an opportunity to explore their imagination while helping them adopt therapeutic methods, like mindful clay-sculpting or finding peace through painting. Therapy can be a highly effective tool; however, some individuals may perceive it as slightly intimidating or even intrusive. Incorporating art, music, and dance into therapy not only makes the activity less intimidating, but it also enables it to be a creative outlet, making room for inspiration to thrive.
Art therapy combines art-making with applied psychological theory and is an artistic healing method for people struggling with sickness, disability, mental health, and other challenges. Built on the notion of highlighting unique skills, art therapy is accessible to all ages and abilities. Art therapy falls under the creative therapy umbrella along with music therapy, dance therapy, and more. These alternative therapy methods have the power to enhance self-confidence, ease anxiety, and build communication skills—which is especially important for individuals with disabilities. For more information on art therapy, check out Covey’s article: Benefits of Art Therapy for Individuals with Disabilities.
We met with professional artist, Lucy Jahns, to discuss the benefits of creative therapy for adults with disabilities. She shared that after receiving her masters degree in studio art, she felt a calling to show people the healing properties of creativity. Lucy graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and officially became an art therapist in 2012. With a passion for the power of art therapy, Lucy knows firsthand what unfolds in the process.
Q+A With Lucy Jahns, Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor
Why is creative therapy good for mental health?
The whole idea of mental health is “cause no harm”. Art is something you can do that’s not causing any physical harm; it’s not taking any risks; it’s a slow entry into how you can approach people. Art is all about expression.
Why is art so relaxing?
Art is something to focus on, something to calm you. If you get into the zone, especially kids with ADHD, if they can get into that world, art can reduce their anxiety.
Can creative therapy actually reduce physical pain?
That’s all subjective and has to do with self-reporting, but I have personally used art as therapy to reduce pain. I used it as a diversion. I can lay around in pain, or I can go to my studio and make art. I’m going to use the pain as a reminder to breathe through it and to forget about the pain (even though the pain was still there).
How often should someone practice creative therapy in order to reap the benefits?
It depends on the situation. Is it trauma? A rough patch? A chronic issue? But like talk therapy, art therapy is not intended to be forever. Ideally, you can teach your client what they can do to get to the point where they can do it on their own. If it’s pleasing, they will want to do it again.
How does creative therapy help people explore their emotions?
Not everyone can talk about what’s going on. Talk therapy is great, if you like to talk, but a lot of people are just stuck. Creative therapy gets them out of that and opens them up.
Why is art therapy beneficial to adults with disabilities?
The main goal of art therapy is for art therapists to present their client with a specific creative process. We have to come up with different directives for people of a special population. You just find the form of art-making that’s best for the client. We should all be doing art to keep us healthy.
Is art therapy more art-centered or more therapy-centered?
It depends on your approach. Just like you would need to find a good fit with a psychotherapist, same thing with art therapy. Some people are more clinically-based, where a client will make a painting, and the art therapist will talk about the painting with them. Some people are more studio-based where everyone makes the art and you don’t judge it or make comments on it. There are many different ways to do art therapy and it depends on what kind of treatments they need for their personal situation.
How does creative therapy help with non-traditional communication?
Music therapy can really help with that. Sometimes, people who can’t speak can sing a song. It’s a reminder that there’s still someone in there paying attention; they’re invested in this.
What is the most rewarding part of being an art therapist?
It’s really rewarding when it clicks for the client. When you see it click, they take ownership of what we just did. I always approach my projects as their personal expression, as opposed to traditional art classes. Every time, there was always a surprise. We all have our own signature in art-making, our own brand. When they’re passionate about something, it comes out in their work.
Find your Creative Side at Covey
Creativity allows people with disabilities the opportunity to cultivate personal growth while also showing off their crafty skills. At Covey, we’re devoted to helping individuals with disabilities live life to its fullest potential. With our program, Covey Connects, we provide classes that are as fun as they are healing. With events such as baking, singalongs, painting, and scrapbooking, we love seeing our clients’ artistic inspiration flourish!