Art therapy has been around since the 1940s, but many people don’t understand what it entails or what the benefits are. Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that encourages people to explore feelings, perceptions and imagination through visual art. The focus is not on the pictures or objects being created, but on the feelings and emotions that are revealed through the creative process. Often people find a voice through art that they didn’t know they had.
Art therapy is part of all treatment programs at Silver Hill. The Chronic Pain and Recovery Center creates masks when they enter the program and before they leave. The first mask represents how they feel at the beginning of the program and the second one illustrates how they feel at the end. Patients in the eating disorder program incorporate scales into their art. The end result is a scale that focuses on positive messages, not a number. Our Adolescent Transitional Living Program collaborates with the Silvermine Art Center to help teens find their inner artist. Watch a short video of art therapy in action.
Even if patients don’t think they have any artistic talent, everyone is encouraged to try. Often people surprise themselves. Katie Wieting, ATR-BC, LCAT, the art therapist at Silver Hill, explains that many patients forget about their pain and/or feelings while they are engaged in creating a piece of art. The process helps them practice mindfulness and visualize reality. At the end of the session everyone is encouraged to talk about their piece with the group. Although this is voluntary, patients who participate in the discussion often gain more insight into the psychological issues being portrayed through the art.
A study presented in the Journal of Advances in Psychiatric Treatment found that expressive writing helps improve moods, reduce depressive symptoms, relieve stress and improve overall mental well-being. In addition to psychological effects, writing can actually improve physical health as well by reducing blood pressure, improving the immune system and memory. Journaling also has positive effects; it reduces stress and helps people clarify their thoughts and feelings. This can help reduce anxiety, improve mood and help people identify thought patterns and recurring feelings that are standing in the way of healing and happiness.
At Silver Hill, patients are encouraged to explore creative writing and journaling. In addition to writing, patients in the Adolescent Transitional Living Program create audio diaries of their thoughts, feelings and experience at the program.
West African drums are used to teach four core modules of DBT (Mindfulness, Emotional Regulation, Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Distress Tolerance) in the Adolescent Transitional Living Program.
Mindfulness: This drumming lesson focuses on beats that utilize the pattern of alternating, hand over hand technique. The basic sounds of the djembe drum (slap, tone, and bass) and the basic rhythms are taught and practiced. We use mindful listening as well as mindful drumming.
Emotion Regulation: The lesson focuses on identifying and describing the emotion experienced by the participant of each individual rhythm. Patients identify how participating in the session is a way to accumulate positive in order to increase positive emotions and decrease emotional vulnerability.
Interpersonal Effectiveness: The lesson focuses on the concept of an ensemble, “the assemblage of parts or details considered as forming a whole.” Interdependency is a key concept; individuals must successfully identify their role, stick to their role, realize the critical importance of their roles, and contribute to the total sound produced. Communication is at the heart of any drumming vision.
Distress Tolerance: The lesson focuses on music as a coping skill. Each patient plays a rhythm of their liking, either one they have learned in previous lessons or one they like from their own music. Additionally, we focus on relaxing through the experience and radically accepting the exercise and any embarrassment or displeasure that might occur.
In horticulture therapy, patients participate in gardening and other plant/flower related activities. Horticulture-related activities can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, give a sense of purpose and responsibility, reduces stress, improve self-confidence, strengthen memory and improve physical fitness. At Silver Hill, patients create flower arrangements that are distributed around the campus and they grow a variety of plants. To learn more, read this Psychology Today article that gives 10 reasons gardening is good for your mental health.
If you would like to see some of our patient’s artwork and read their poetry, check out The Silver Lining, an art and literary magazine created by Silver Hill patients and staff.
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