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Art as therapy; giving it a go and Frida Kahlo and Lowry

art as therapy

During my level 4 counselling training, I had produce an individual presentation on any form of theory I wanted. I chose expressive writing therapy, as I had been using writing as therapy myself since the age of thirteen. To back up the theory, I researched art therapy and found it an incredibly interesting subject; one which I could relate to. 


During the same year, I began my 100 hours counselling placement. I worked with a client who found it incredibly hard to name even just one emotion he felt. They could not verbalise or write the feelings, but there was very clearly a lot inside them creating a low mood and low self esteem. They did little with their time but did enjoy drawing and painting, so I asked them if they would like to bring some of their art in. At the next session they were enthused as they presented me with quite a few personal art works, which was unusual for them, as they usually presented with the same, non emotional manner every week. The art was stunning. I went through them slowly with them and asked them to stop me if one particularly held meaning for them. They did this easily. It was a drawing of a beautiful figure with a particular feature. I asked them what feelings they had when they drew it and how they felt at the present about it, and a whole new story together with their feelings around a particular person and event, came out. It was very powerful and we made much therapeutic progress that day.

Famous artists have showcased (sometimes inadvertently) their own form of art therapy for the public eye. Watching the film ‘Frida’ about Frida Kahlo and how her paintings were depicting her physical and emotional pain really stood out more than words she could have said. Researching L. S. Lowry and how his paintings depicted people in poignant situations, but also of his own moods, like how the very pale painting of the sea depicted his depression, made me feel sad. But the brilliant thing is that their art goes on and on, for all of us to view, understand and take something away from. Like writing my own memoirs or reading the memoirs of others’ these paintings as art forms are as emotionally powerful, if not more. And they encourage people to pour their emotions into an art form. 

There is also a reason why adult colouring in books are so popular. It is still creating art to choose the colours and which picture you are drawn to/ and can tell us something about a person.

In art, you can use different mediums, choose to draw, paint, or create an object. You can choose to use soft strokes or harsh lines, black and white or colours, be careful, carefree or rushed, to create an art piece that is light or bold. The subject could be abstract or of someone, a creature, an object or a landscape. The choices are endless and that is why I feel art is a good medium for expression. Most people can do something of an artistic nature. Even people with no hands can sometimes learn to use their feet. And it offers free expression which I love, as it opens the door to the mind that asking questions  through speech can sometimes not access.

Sources for this essay

Frida Kahlo

L. S. Lowry exhibition

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