Resources on Art Therapy at the time of COVID-19

For years, research into the effects of the arts on health and well-being has been increasing, although there has often been a lack of awareness of the evidence of these effects, and – as a consequence – little consistency in policy development.

Already the World Health Organisation document What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review, edited by Daisy Fancourt and Saoirse Finn, aimed at filling this gap and thus mapping all the available evidence on the impact of the arts on health. In particular, evidence shows how art therapy can reduce anxiety and stress, which became ubiquitous during the Sars-Cov-2 pandemic.

As Mallory Braus and Brenda Morton note in their article Art Therapy in the time of COVID-19,

Isolation has been known to increase the effects of mental health disorders, heightening anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and more. Therefore, an easily accessible, low-cost therapeutic activity that promotes self-care and healthy outlets for heightened emotions is essential. Art therapy can be a tool for individuals to use as a healthy coping method of self-care and self-expression. Art therapy offers a multiplicity of benefits, including the ability to reduce feelings of isolation and alienation. It honors the inherent need of individuals to have autonomy in their expressions, creates an outlet of such expressions for individuals in times of high stress without damage to one’s self, and provides deep introspection for the participant. The goal is to gain self-awareness, increased understanding about one’s life, and acceptance of one’s limitations and strengths.

Also

Art therapy focuses on individuals evaluating their own emotional states through their own self-expressions. Art therapy utilizes the therapeutic practice of mindfulness; when used with intent and purpose, it allows for self-reflection and expression. In art therapy, mindfulness is what allows an individual to receive the therapeutic benefit of “tuning out” the daily stress and anxiety and to focus on a single task while also focusing on the materials employed for self-expression.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in particular, the question has been raised as to what role the arts can play in coping with this historic moment, and what kind of challenges those working with art therapy face in the face of this radical event.

In a recent volume of the International Journal of Art Therapy, many of the contributions point in this direction: the support of healthcare professionals through both artistic and narrative expression, the use of the Clay Slip Game as a meditative process that can improve emotional control, the use of art therapy with children in vulnerable situations, on which school closures have had considerable effects. We believe that these articles could be a starting point to investigate the evolution of art therapy since the outbreak of the pandemic.

We also recommend the report by the American Art Therapy Association Art Therapy during a mental health crisis: Coronavirus pandemic impact report.

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