Art therapy: What and how is treated with paints and love stories 

THE WORLD IS GRADUALLY GETTING USED TO THE FACT THAT MENTAL DISORDERS are serious, and even in a mild form, they need correction. Treatment may not only involve talking to a therapist or taking medication. The human brain also responds to the influence of art – art therapy and bibliotherapy are based on this. We tried to understand how book and art treatment works and discussed the effects of art on mental health with psychotherapist Zoya Bogdanova.

Treatment by creativity


The influence of art on the emotional state of a person was probably noticed by cavemen who began to depict mammoths on the walls. Much has been written and told about how painting or music can change a life (and not only of an artist or performer) – and it is not surprising that they try to use art on purpose to obtain the desired effect. Art therapy is used by psychotherapists for various diseases and psychologists. There are even associations of art therapists.

Art therapy has almost no scientifically based evidence of efficacy, including due to the complexity of its study: it is difficult to conduct a comparative study of treatment methods based on an individual approach. Nevertheless, the observational data and their analysis show : it works. When a person is engaged in creativity , he immerses himself in the process and remains alone with himself, focuses on the present, learns to express himself and gets to know his inner world, splashes out emotions and controls them. Art healing spans many different areas and is much broader and more interesting than using coloring pages to relieve stress.

Psychotherapist Zoya Bogdanova says that art therapy includes many methods related to creativity. Expressing feelings and emotions through drawing or painting is isotherapy, and the technique can be any, from classical to drawing with fingers and splashing paint. This type of art therapy is the only one that has no contraindications, and it is used in centers for helping victims of violence or patients with cancer.

The book is the best therapist


Bibliotherapy is also a way to cope with internal problems, only with the help of books. People who like to read probably themselves noticed the special influence of the text on consciousness and even behavior. Some works are so powerful that they change a person’s life – and this is not just about religious or motivational books, which contain direct calls to action or directions. It’s just that sometimes, after reading, we cannot throw a new idea out of our heads, or our eyes open and we look at things from an unexpected angle.

Bibliotherapy is not as well researched as other methods, it certainly does not have the evidence base like CBT or the powerful system and school of psychoanalysis. But the benefits of a large text for mental health were noticed a long time ago: Pharaoh Ramses II called the library “the temple of the healing of the soul”, and Sigmund Freud, who turned the idea of ​​the therapy of mental disorders, included work with books in his method, and the term itself appeared in 1916 year.

Bibliotherapy is based on the fact that after talking with the patient, the therapist selects books that can positively affect the condition: they will show you how to cope with a problem, saturate with the necessary emotions, or allow you to disconnect from current difficulties. Reading is usually followed by analysis and discussion – sometimes in groups. The choice of books is limited only by the characteristics of the patient’s personality and diagnosis. For example, Yanagihara’s “Little Life” at the height of his depression might be too difficult a choice.

or hudlit


Popular science literature does not always cheer up and dull anxiety, but it can help to figure out what is happening – as, for example, the publication “Go crazy! A Guide to Mental Disorders for a Resident of a Big City ”by Daria Varlamova and Anton Zaitsev. But most often, fiction is still used to restore the psyche. When patients read about heroes, especially those who find themselves in situations similar to ours, they look at problems from a different angle. Empathy for characters is a way to express emotions, similar to the effect of isotherapy. For those who just lack emotions (for example, these are people in a state of depression, in which the world seems gray), the text can become a source of “lost” feelings.

In Russia and earlier in the USSR, bibliotherapy was based , of course, on the classics, which is no longer relevant today. Not only can many books from the school curriculum by themselves lead to neurosis, they also do not reflect modern realities. Perhaps this is why we know little about bibliotherapy, although it is a good way to cope with anxiety and depression, working as an addition to the main treatment regimen. In any case, it is worth choosing books with a specialist who will take into account the condition and characteristics of the patient.

A book that helps you deal with inner conflict and frustration doesn’t have to be particularly deep, problematic, or even clever. The popularity of romance novels with an unpretentious plot lies precisely in this deliberate simplicity with an indispensable, in spite of everything, a happy ending. Daria Dontsova, whose detectives are not scolded, it seems, is only lazy, knowingly calls the books “pills for depression.” The writer, who has experienced a serious illness, is actually talking about the therapeutic effects of creativity (albeit someone else’s). Bibliotherapy is also used for children, for whom reading and detailed analysis of fairy tales helps to understand their emotions.

How to choose an art therapist


Treatment with art and literature is one of the most inexpensive but effective ways to cope with some manifestations of disorders, especially mood disorders. Creativity therapy helps to understand emotions, bibliotherapy teaches you to look from the outside at what is happening or to be distracted from heavy thoughts. The main thing is that both types can always be used together with the main treatment, both pharmacological and “spoken”.

Zoya Bogdanova advises you to be careful when choosing a psychotherapist, even if you want to try such a seemingly simple method as art therapy or reading books. It is better to choose certified specialists who have received their profession in accredited institutions – this can be a university or state advanced training courses. There they give basic knowledge of psychological counseling and art therapy in particular. As with other types of therapy, you need to look at customer reviews, analyze the doctor’s practice, and, if possible, look for recommendations. It happens that a young therapist, despite a little experience, has knowledge and a desire to work with modern methods – but with the same phototherapy, according to Bogdanova, “old school” psychotherapists are not involved.

local_offerevent_note July 12, 2021

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