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Art therapy can help reduce anxiety, symptoms of depression

“Art therapy is multifaceted,” says Nancy Morales, LAPC, ATR-P, a registered art therapist at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “It's a therapeutic practice equivalent to talk therapy, only we eliminate verbal responses, and replace them with manipulation of materials and symbolic images, pounding clay and moving paint around, so you're smelling, you're touching.”

Through the art therapy process, Morales says participants can process emotions they might not have known they were dealing with.

“When we're working with art materials and creating through the art process, our defenses are often dropped,” she explains.

Class participant Nancy Olsen agrees.

“Art therapy is a way to express yourself because if you don’t feel like talking, you know you can come into class and there’s always something that can help you work through some of the stuff we have inside us,” says Olsen.

What to expect in art therapy

“Open art therapy studio is just about playing with the materials,” explains Morales. “It does take some time for people to warm up to that idea, that I really don’t have any expectation for them to create something. Everybody has the ability to choose what they want to do and what they don’t want to do.”

“It’s kind of a release,” says Sally Raymond, an art therapy class participant. “I can work with clay while I’m talking to and listening to other people. It’s been really good for me.”

Morales says studies have shown art therapy reduces anxiety and symptoms of depression.

“And it’s fun,” she adds.

“I’ve enjoyed every class that I have come to,” says Colette Parent-Hay, another class participant. “I like art and it’s an opportunity to try new things. And I meet other people who are trying to do the same thing, make connections, make friends.”

If you’ve ever wanted to explore your artistic side, art therapy is a good place to start.

“We offer all those things that throughout your life you’re like, ‘Oh, I always wanted to take a pottery class or paint,’” says Morales. “It’s a perfect place to be supported by other members of the group so you can let down your own defenses and begin to create.”

Learn more ways to boost your mind, body and spirit with these tips from Living Better experts.