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  • Writer's pictureClaire Hilton

Why 'Art Therapy' is more than just a colouring book

I know what you're thinking - slightly late to the party. Yes yes I know. Adult colouring is nothing new, and its not going anywhere either. Everywhere you go from the Poundshop to Hobbycraft there's another version of a colouring book to get stuck into.

Taking time to yourself, being sat and grounded, concentrating on something which is achievable and also gratifying in outcome is appealing. At the very least you get to sit still and put your brain into neutral for a while, so don't let me put you off! If you enjoy it and that's you're thing then there's far worse things in the world. Depending on the person and/or circumstance, you might find this time well spent. The act of sitting down to colour and take time to yourself isn't really an awful thing - but its very different to Art Therapy, and hopefully this article will explain why.

The sentence I hear the most in my work (all of it, from festival workshops to boundaried Art Therapy) is 'I'm not good at art/I'm not very creative'. Lets look at that for a second..

When we grow up, as children and we are learning to put things in the right places on our drawings and explain out experiences of our world to others - we don't care! All we are doing is expressing ourselves and taking enjoyment from the experience of doing so. Then, somewhere down the line its common for us to become very self-conscious about what we are doing, how it looks and what other people will think. This can then be carried around with us from place to place, stopping any sort of creativity at all in some cases. Sometimes when we see art materials and are offered some space to give something a go and try new things, materials and experiences, we have a fear. A fear of being wrong, being looked at or even being there.

Every time you make something there is an unknown entity. From baking a cake, to writing a song or a poem. You might have the ingredients and even a plan - but it doesn't mean it will work like that. But in other circumstances this is how we understand learning. We don't beat ourselves up too much about a burned Victoria sponge - we just go again. Somehow Art is seen as more mysterious - something you can or can't do.

Art Therapy at its most traditional looks at making art in a wider sense. How did it feel to do it? What materials were you drawn to? and what does the piece or elements within it mean to you? This gives the option to explore our inner worlds and understanding of ourselves within the context of a therapeutic relationship. This wouldn't be possible without a therapist, a piece of artwork and its creator being present and in the room at the same time. The artwork made in this confidential context is made in an exploratory way - the importance is therefore based in the context of it coming into existence and the processes surrounding that. This is very different to making artwork that you are wanting to look good, to display and even sell. These two items would have very different beginnings and undoubtedly look very different.

I designed this at my first school and it won some sort of competition and was printed on mugs! I found this in my studio this week and it reminded me of the experience playfulness which tends to be lost as adults.

I believe that making art and being creative is good for you, but I also acknowledge that flexing that creative muscle is something that can be an anxious and difficult process for some. But please keep going. The more you give yourself up to the process and give it a go, deal with any problems or unexpected outcomes along the way, the more you can grow and learn.

Thank you for reading :)

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