Art Therapy and Self-development

Art Therapy and Self-development

Interview with
Founder and Chairman of Lotus Educational Institute
Dubai April 2020

Note: Here is the full interview about Art Therapy which used for publishing an article in Friday Magazine at:
https://fridaymagazine.ae/life-culture/people-profiles/-art-is-for-the-brave-bored-and-isolated-these-kids-find-healing-in-art-1.2308658

1: How does creating art serve as therapy, as a healing strategy and for well-being?

Art in different shapes of Drawing and Painting, Dancing and Singing, even as creating some tools for hunting and living, were a part of Human from beginning of his life. Now a day if we are considering Painting as an Art with definition of beauty (Aesthetics), it was a part of Man’s daily task – to record his lifestyle, to communicate with others, and to pray for surviving by wishing tomorrow’s hunting which were primary models of planning in current Management, Self/Group-Confidence practicing in current Psychology, and Meditation in current Spirituality. 

Therefore, Art as any action that brings better skills, is considering for Creativity, like even cooking! If someone cooks well, we say she/he is an artist in cooking! In this way, all our thoughts and deeds in daily lives could be Art and Artistic, if we could do them better than last time and in possible perfect conditions.

On the other hand, in Academic curriculums we are dividing Art in two main groups of Fine Art and Visual Art. Despite of some differences between philosophers argues of overlapping Arts – for example Calligraphy under the umbrella of Fine Art or Visual Art or even as Sacred Art (in Islamic scholars), or the contemporary Digital Pop Art as an independent division or just a version of other Arts, or other examples for other types of Art – scientifically based on Holistic Health point of view, we can say that “if any shape or type of known Art could presents any amount of stable calmness, inner-awareness, and creative consciousness, that is real definition of Art with the effect of “Healing” (Well-being) and also it is usable as “Therapy” (and in some cases as Treatment) for un-balanced any kind of creature (including Mankind).

2: Is this especially pertinent as we face a pandemic, helping relieve the stress and anxiety we face?

Definitely yes. First of all, we need to understand the differences between particular Normality and Mental Disorders; also, terms and wording we use for them. “Stress” is a normal reaction of mind and body when we are facing an unexpected situation or expected physical, emotional or mental difficulty. It is not disease, although maybe some symptoms are similar to the “Anxiety” which is a Mental Disorder and needs to be treat in the right way. This is same differences between “Fear” and “Phobia” too and so on.

Art is a powerful healing method for preventing mental disorders by controlling Physical and Emotional reactions (for people who are still did not convert to the stage of critical mental situation in stressful personal or social difficulties) and also it is quite helpful as a Therapeutic tool for helping patients who are suffering from a mental disorder – no matter if they are under Psychiatric medication or just taking Psychological Consultation (for controlling their emotional, mental, and social difficulties and trying to solve them in an exclusive way).

That’s why Art-Therapy as one of the WHO-recognized treatments of Complementary and Alternative Medicine which is very popular and useful around the world and practicing by Art-Therapists who are usually one of the (a) Mental Health Practitioners (with Art education beside their health profession) for facilitating patients’ treatments or (b) qualified Art Teachers who are studied and aware about mental health as well, aiming to use Art Therapy techniques for kids and adult’s self-development.  

Scientifically, when we are in a pandemic situation like that what we are facing currently and globally for Covid-19, our total health status is moving to a critical condition! Physically our brain’s frequency passes and shifts from Alpha range to Beta (which makes problem for proper sleeping, lake of memory and doubting for making right decisions, etc.) and because of producing some hormones to our blood for facing and sometimes fighting with an unknown fear of losing job, instability in life, sickness or possible death, the result will be inner weakness for immune system, which is the main root for different kinds of internal organs’ diseases.

This is similar diagnosis for healing an unbalancing Vital Energy which described in Ayurvedic Indian Medicine as Chakra Balancing – and in TCM- Traditional Chinese Medicine, as Circulating Meridians.

So, practicing Art is helping to bring back our brain frequency and internal organs activities to a normal and natural conditions, and eventually gaining strong Immune system, stable self-confidence, and spiritual energy will be shilled again for better health protection and relaxation by receiving and feeling divine blessing (despite of our believes or religions).

We need to note this is no mean all artists are staying in a Holistic health and in perfect condition, and others who are not artists, are in danger of sickness’ side effects! In order to achieve what I mentioned above, the way of practicing Art, using which kinds of Art, and other disciplines and descriptions, should be prescribed and implemented by a specialist in Art Therapy only!

3: Could you give us examples of anyone recently who came to Lotus to use art as a way of dealing with their anxieties and fears of the pandemic?

At Lotus with the assistance of my partners (who are PhD holders in Arts Education and Clinical Psychology) as a team are providing Art Therapy in different levels and groups for separate goals. Using Meditative Art for relaxation and self-development or teaching Art teachers how to use Art for helping kids and adults for finding hidden talents and creativity, beside individual Personal-Development Consultation which is always an essential for programming and controlling the improvement.  

We know the majority of people worldwide are not mental ill (!). Therefore, for the first group of students who are not under any kind of mental health medication, preparing an artistic atmosphere, teaching soft fundamentals of Art – without stressing them to be an artist by drawing or painting, with individual consultation sessions time to time to programme their exclusive well-being strategy, would be sufficient.

This large group of candidates need to find a trustable way to answer their questions and how to destress and expressing out their thoughts and emotions without scaring of facing a wrong judgment! Also, a peaceful time of meditation with healthy music, working with artistic tools and colours under supervision of experts to lead them in the right way of using Art as Therapy.

On the other hand, for some candidates who are using medication, we are trying to provide Art Therapy (Including training classes and consultation sessions) as a complementary health services which helps to stable patients’ mental health situation. Usually these candidates after a while could reduce medications (under their physicians’ prescriptions), being more stable in lifestyle as responsible persons, and increase hope, happiness and confident.

According to our successful experience at Lotus, some candidates, will be interesting to the Art seriously and continued for academic training programmes and created amazing artworks till participating in our annual Art exhibitions!

4: What are some situations – and conditions – in which art therapy can be utilized?

As I mentioned, we have different types of Art Therapy that would be better if we use selected ones based on our culture and society’s needs. In UAE and particularly in Dubai, we are living together with more than hundreds of nationalities, believes, and needs. That’s why from beginning of introducing Art Therapy in Dubai in year of 2000, according to my educational backgrounds and experiences, as well as what I understood from society needs, I preferred to conduct Fine Art for this mission. And now in Lotus, beside of providing regular Arts&Design certificate programmes, we are practicing the related subjects to cover all needs such as Colour Meditation, Drawing Techniques, Creative Painting, Artworks Analyzing and Reading, Self-development consultation, etc.  

5: Could you run us through what happens during a virtual class?

Yes, from beginning of April 2020, we started to conduct several Real-time Online classes in these regards, including Fine Art group classes and Individual Self-Development Consultations beside group webinars for Holistic Well-being.

6: Could you give UAE residents some tips on how to go about starting using art as therapy at home (buy a colouring book? etc).

Of course. The easiest step by step instruction for a beginner would be as follow:

  • First and before anything else, understand and accept “This is not the end of World; so, do not be afraid”.
  • prepare some basic and simple tools (paints, papers, brushes).
  • try to pick a same timing (Disciplinary) which you are alone or quite environment (if possible) and if not possible put a headphone without music or sound to isolate your mind for minutes.
  • Breath, deeply, for few times inhale and exhale in a way that you feel warmness on your skin.
  • start to do it (painting with favorite colours without any purpose or judgment on the result, just do it!
  • when you are practicing, do not listen to any music or watching TV or listening to radio or else; try to concentrate maximum on what you do.
  • when you feel even a second that you forgot when you started or where you are, stop! Do not judge on your works and hang them to dry. You need to see them during days.
  • day after day, correct your position when you are working – in order to avoid muscles’ stiffness, better diet, deeper meditating with doing this for better performance.
  • write your thought, feelings, and wishes positively and honest and do not read your statement from previous days.
  • after seven days, by regular practicing, exhibit your works on a board and name them. Without any education to analyzing artworks and psychological status, by nature you will see the differences and gradation of improvement of your mental health. It is the magic of Art Therapy and it is not all!

7: Do you need to have artistic ability before you start?

Absolutely Not! The goal in Art Therapy is not training you as an artist but is aiming for well-being. Therefore, playing with colours, sketching, listening to music, gardening, etc. (if will be in the right way) are comprehensive mediums to relax and refresh your body and mind by stopping your useless thoughts and losing energy.

Then, we will be able to see the reality of life, to be able to make the right decisions for solving problems, to accept our faith in parallel of efforts, and finally to be able to hear and follow our intuitions which leads us for better life.

8: Would you recommend art as therapy to both adults and kids during the pandemic and lockdown, and why?

Reading hidden codes of kids’ paintings, always is one of the best ways to understanding them for diagnosing their mental status! And naturally all children are using drawing or painting to talk to us in silence mode!

But adults unfortunately have been forgotten their nature of expressing out their thoughts and emotions in a natural way because of busy mind, and attention to outsources rather than focusing to their inner conciseness.

Our job is to bring them back by Art Therapy techniques that are beyond colour of skins and tribes, ages and believes! Art Therapy should be found on the common principles of Well-being. No physician is asking what you believe or what is your nationality to cure your heart problem! Principals are principals, heart is heart, blood is blood!

Therefore, always the rules of healing and wellbeing are same for everyone, and so it is for Art Therapy; but with an additional aspect of varieties for different personalities which needs a kind of customization and combination of cares and healing methods for each person.

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