Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy

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Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy

The concept of mindfulness originated from early Buddhist practices. These practices encouraged an enlightening meditation
that focused on awareness of one’s emotions, consciousness,
and sensations. Today mindfulness has branched out from its
roots as a Buddhist meditation method to become integrated
into psychotherapy. These practices are used as a means of
coping with a variety of conditions including substance abuse,
eating disorders, and anxiety among many other mental,
emotional, and physical issues.
Since the beginning in the late 1940s, art therapy has become
a rapidly developing field spreading everywhere from hospitals
to prisons and many individual practices. An art therapy session
generally includes either the art as an emotional release, or
the art psychotherapy approach where the completed art is
analyzed by the therapist and client to gain insight. Recently
several people in the field, including psychologist and writer
Laury Rappaport, have proposed a new concept “Mindful-Based
Art Therapy.” “MBAT” Mindful-Based Art Therapy is a method
of combining the philosophies of mindfulness practices with the
existing art therapy setting. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
has long been used to help clients approach themselves and
the world with an open, accepting mindset with an awareness
that allows them to reflect on what they find, leading to a
greater understanding of one’s emotions and inner self,
Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy aims to include the creative
process of art-making in this self-exploration.
Research has shown that because the brain accesses similar
states during both treatment modalities, it is not mentally difficult
for clients to combine them and receive the benefits of these
two methods simultaneously. There are several key components
that are involved in creating the concept of MBAT. The first
part “mindfulness” reflects a focus on awareness of emotions,
physical sensations in the body, and consciousness. When you
are being mindful you have an enhanced ability in terms of your
self-awareness and capacity to reflect on your experience and
daily life. The second part “Art Therapy” is the action of creating.
A precursor to MBAT, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a
technique to improve your understanding of your inner self and
emotions. Research-based evidence is still needed but MBAT is
slowly gaining recognition as a tool for improvement in the field
of psychology. In proposing the concept of MBAT, Rappaport
incorporated the work of psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin’s
theory on focusing. Glendlin noticed that the clients who
improved the most in therapy were the ones who connected
to their inner physical self. In Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy
you connect the imagination to the body allowing the expression
of feelings that you can’t express with word. Mindfulness-Based
Art Therapy is beneficial because it can be easier to practice
than attending psychotherapy appointments. Meditation can
be practiced on your own at home as can many art-based
forms of mindfulness. While it is important to note this doesn’t replace interaction with a therapist,
there are endless possibilities in terms of
cost-efficient ways to implement MBAT in
your daily life to combat stress and manage
psychological difficulties.
MBAT can be a fun way to bring more
mindfulness into your life, even if you are
only doing it on your own at home. Do
something for one hour a week that integrates mindfulness and art,
and you’ll more likely see benefits to your psychological health.
Try some of the simple exercises below:
• Draw a picture of yourself. This is an exercise of self-acceptance.
Try to make the picture as realistic as possible and be accepting of
any “flaws” that you identify in the picture.
• Mindfully study art materials. Examine art with a mindful eye
using all five of your senses. What do you see, feel, touch, hear,
taste? Engage in sensory stimulation and monitor your responses
to all forms of art in your daily life.
• Use art to express emotions. As you paint, sculpt, draw, or
otherwise create art, try to channel the emotions and feelings you
are experiencing in your body. Observe any physical sensations
while you are drawing or coloring. Express happy or stressful
events from your week through your art. Retrieve the feelings that
you experience in your body and display them in your art to help
recognize your own unmet needs and hidden emotions that you
have yet found a way to communicate or notice.

• Notice pain changing. If you live with chronic pain due to a
physical illness, notice how your pain changes as you create art.
• Paint and walk. Paint the bottom of your feet and create art by
walking on paper.
• Create a collage. Make a collage that expresses your feelings
and emotions.
• Before and after art pieces. Take notice of how you
feel before and after creating an art piece to see if
you notice improvements in your
psychological well-being.

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