The Art Cure: How Art Can Help Heal

Sydney Leardi, Online Editor

For many, the conventional methods for combatting mental health have not yielded the desired results. As more research and studies are brought to light, there are more options and practices to aid in various situations. Art therapy has become more popular over the years as a tool that uses creative processes and art materials as a healing process.

There are many experts and people with whom art therapy is the emphasis of their career. Marygrace Berberian, a licensed and registered Art Therapist and licensed clinical social worker is the Director of the New York University Graduate Art Therapy Program. She recently focused on the rehabilitative benefits of community-based art therapy for adults struggling with degenerative diseases. In speaking with her, Berberian accredited the pandemic as causing a heightened level of stress to high school students on top of the already tumultuous time of their lives. As there has been an increase in harmful substance use and behaviors, it is crucial to raise awareness about other, better-coping options. Berberian states that “making art reduces cortisol levels and blood pressure as well as promoting healthy growth in cells,” producing scientific evidence of art benefits but also comments that art allows students to “unpack things and ideas that they might not otherwise talk about.”

When working with students, most art therapists work either one-on-one or within small groups because of the intimate thoughts that the art helps to process. Within these sessions, they might focus on a specific topic, such as healthy boundaries. Berberian says there are numerous ways to use the art process as therapy. She points out that “a student may be drawing and say that they couldn’t get through it without erasing it many times because it needs to be perfect” and at that point, the therapy then shifts to focus on asking the student to “tell me more, what’s that voice telling you and why do you think the art must be perfect?”

Art therapy does not also need to be structured in a clinical format. Daily doodling on notebook paper or intentional sketches or journaling “sets you up in a mindset to check in with your body,” says Berberian. There are even apps you can download to make digital art to add to the convenience.

In a STEM field-based world, it is essential for us to promote creative and artistic practices. There is immense value and benefits in prioritizing these subjects. Art adds to someone’s identity and how others can perceive them in a holistic sense.