Art & Music Therapy

It’s not always easy to express your thoughts, emotions, and mental health struggles. That’s why some people benefit from therapeutic approaches that promote healing through non-verbal practices like drawing, finger painting, and song.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a technique that uses artistic methods to improve a person’s mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. People have been using art to express themselves for centuries, but it was first documented as a therapeutic tool to promote healing in the 1940s. 

The goal of art therapy is to encourage people to open up and engage with their therapist in a less conventional way. By using art as a form of expression, some people may feel more comfortable exploring emotions, managing behaviors, and reconciling conflicts—all of which can reduce stress and boost self-esteem. 

Today, art therapy comes in many forms. Some of the most common types are:

  • Collaging
  • Coloring
  • Doodling
  • Drawing
  • Finger painting
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Pottery 
  • Sculpting

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What is music therapy?

Music therapy is an evidence-based form of treatment that uses music interventions to help people accomplish their therapy goals. Performed by certified therapists, music therapy was designed to address a range of mental, physical, cognitive, and social issues that can impact a person's mental health. 

Music therapy might look a little different for each person, but it usually involves some combination of active and receptive techniques. Active music therapy is when a person is actually creating music—this could be composing, singing, chanting, or playing an instrument. Receptive techniques tend to focus on listening or responding to music, such as a discussion about the lyrics to a song or dancing to a beat.

"I never utilized art therapy until Charlie Health introduced it. It became a technique I really connected with, and I value it deeply,"

H.N., 24-year-old Charlie Health client

Benefits of art and music therapy

Art and music therapies are less about creating a masterpiece and more about the process of self-discovery and healing. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, which allows each person to discover what works for them. 

Art and music therapies were designed to help improve a person’s functioning and overall quality of life. Other benefits of using artistic mediums for therapy include:

  • Improving mental health
  • Decreasing symptoms of mental or physical illness
  • Enhancing ability to recognize and cope with a variety of symptoms
  • Providing an escape from negative thoughts or cravings 
  • Stimulating cognitive function
  • Improving communication skills and the ability to express oneself
  • Addressing past traumas and in a safe environment
  • Changing unhealthy behaviors 
Art supplies for art therapy
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Art therapy techniques

Art therapy is an invaluable tool for helping teens and young adults work through issues and develop coping skills. It provides a safe, non-judgmental space for exploration, connection, and expression of feelings. Art therapy techniques focus on creative problem-solving, the exploration of relationships between feelings and behavior, self-reflection, understanding of emotions, and learning healthier ways of relating to oneself and others.

In art therapy sessions, teens and young adults are free to express themselves creatively in whatever way feels right. They might use drawing or painting to explore feelings or talk about their work in order to gain insight. Other techniques used in these sessions include guided imagery, dream analysis, sand tray play, clay sculpting, body mapping (drawing on one’s body or clothes), distorting images with mirrors or other objects to reflect inner turmoil, creating collages from images in magazines that represent current emotional states or goals for the future.

Today, art therapy comes in many forms. Some of the most common types are: 

  • Collaging
  • Coloring
  • Doodling
  • Drawing
  • Finger painting
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Pottery
  • Sculpting

Who should try art and music therapy?

Before you write off art or music therapy as being too childish or outside of your comfort zone, remember that it's an effective tool for people of all ages and artistic abilities. Artistic forms of therapy are especially helpful for individuals who feel out of touch with their emotions or have difficulty discussing their feelings.

Art and music therapies are used to treat a wide variety of mental health symptoms and psychological disorders, including:

Person participating in art therapy virtually
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Can I do art or music therapy on my own?

Just like other forms of therapy, art or music therapy must be facilitated by a qualified professional in an appropriate setting. Typically, this means a master-level clinician who is trained in psychotherapy and a specific discipline. Therapy sessions occur in a medical or rehabilitation facility, private practice, or mental health clinic—and it’s even possible to participate from home when the treatment is part of a virtual intensive outpatient program.

It’s also important to note the difference between official art therapy and creative hobbies, such as adult coloring books. Although coloring books have grown in popularity for good reason, they don’t allow for the same level of introspection and evaluation as art therapy conducted with a therapist. In fact, it’s truly the combination of making the art and reflecting with a therapist that leads to the greatest benefits and breakthroughs. 

Art & music therapy at Charlie Health

Charlie Health is committed to helping teens and young adults overcome their mental health struggles in a safe and supported environment. Reach out today to learn more about art or music therapy and our unparalleled, multi-pronged approach to care.  

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