During World War II, art therapy was developed and was used in treating victims of “shell shock,” a term now referred to as posttraumatic stress syndrome. It was used to help patients express their feelings when words were insufficient. Following the war, the uses of art therapy were broadened. It is now used in many different populations, including traumatized children and adults, self-improvement groups, and people with chronic illnesses.
An art therapist often has both an art and a psychology background. The media used range from those with very tight handling properties, like markers and crayons, to those with very loose properties, like fingerpaints and clay. Color, shapes, symbols, and relationships of objects in the artwork are some of the aspects the therapist will evaluate when working with a client.
Color therapy is a specific way in which art is used to promote health. Colors are considered energies and have vibrational frequencies. Each color is a part of white light; as a part of this whole, any disharmony can lead to an imbalance and subsequent illness. This type of therapy is incorporated in ancient Chinese and Eastern Indian philosophies. There are colors associated with yin/yang, the seven chakras, and the inner eye. A variety of techniques are appropriate for applying color therapy: color lamp treatment, the application of colored film or material, healing flower cards, and color visualization. Working in conjunction with the energy points, or chakras, acupuncture, or acupressure points; wearing particular colored clothing; and eating specific foods based on their color are all examples of the employment of color therapy.
Artistic creative expression in art therapy can help the individual focus on the process and thereby add to his or her sense of well-being. The creative process can be as simple as pencil drawings or as grand as giant swaths of cloth encircling an island. It can be as minimal as black ink calligraphy or as complex as multicolored mosaics. Doing repetitive actions shuts down the left side of the brain, associated with logic, and allows the right side, associated with emotional expression, to spring to life. Creative expression in art therapy includes sculpting in plaster, clay, or plasticene; developing photographs; painting or drawing; making jewelry; printing on clothing or paper; and sewing, knitting, and crocheting. Bv immersing the individual in the process, the conscious mind rests, leaving dreams, images, colors, and symbols to surface and be utilized.