The Art Therapy’s Therapists’ Association might be ATAS for short, but their initiatives are strictly aimed at the general populace.
Art has been used as a form of therapy at the National University Hospital (NUH)’s department of paediatrics since 2006. More recently in 2013, non-profit organisation Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) started using art therapy as a means to psychologically support children with cancer.
The psychological effects of being diagnosed with cancer can be overwhelming for children, and they may experience a sense of emotional chaos. Giving children a means to create art can help them to express themselves in a manner that words may not be able to convey.
In an experiment conducted by Dr Mu and researchers from National Yang-Ming University and Taipei Veterans General Hospital, it was found that children with cancer who underwent an expressive art programme had significantly higher self-esteem and quality of life scores than the group that did not attend the programme.
Not just about drawing
According to Ms Loo Hwee Hwee, an art therapist at NUH, art therapy “combines the process of making art with a variety of psychological frameworks and counselling skills”.
Through voicing and externalising their emotions via art therapy, children can make sense of their inner conflicts, cope with stress, increase their self-awareness and process traumatic experiences.
For those who aren’t confident in drawing, the good news is that one does not even have to be skilled in art to partake, said Ms Loo.
“Very often, aesthetics is secondary or of no importance, compared to the process of making and creating the artwork”
Ms Loo also explains that “besides children with cancer, art therapy can also help children and teens experiencing chronic health issues, anxiety, eating disorders, depression, trauma, abuse and other psychosocial issues”
We can do more to eliminate the social stigma of seeking help
Where normal counselling might fail, art therapy can be an alternative for dealing with psychological issues which even adults struggle with in life. Art therapy does not carry the social stigma that other psychotherapy methods can have – often it can be shameful for people to reveal that they are seeing a psychotherapist, and choose to hide it.
It is not a shameful act to seek help for a problem which you may have, and this social stigma needs to change. Society at large can do a lot more to understand mental illnesses and realise that even colleagues, close friends or family members can be afflicted by them. Support during this time can be crucial to their recovery as it is not something that they can face alone.
Take time out from work to de-stress
The importance of having an outlet to express yourself cannot be understated in today’s pressure-cooker society. Even if you are not suffering from a mental illness, it can be helpful to take time out to write and draw, or partake in any other interest you may have which is not related to your job. You do not even have to be good at it as long as you enjoy what you are doing!