Mental and emotional health care providers often turn to art, music and other means of self expression as part of the therapeutic process. Emotional stress has been found to be relieved and reduced through art. It is often said that the patterns we create help form new patterns in our brains!

All forms of art can be both relaxing, disturbing, inspiring and thought provoking. They can be used to create awareness and to heal. The first level of awareness is at the person’s own level. Troubled people have found art to be a safe outlet to express their trauma, grief, fear, hate, anger, depression, anxiety and doubt that they might otherwise bottle up and therefore allow to fester and grow. With the public at large, art has often been used in exhibits using various media to express both the causes and effects of trauma on the human psyche, individually and collectively.

Art is very revealing. Sketches, drawings, even scribbles and doodles tell us a lot about a person’s emotional state. It has been used to enable traumatized patients to express themselves when they find it hard to talk, This includes victims of abuse and trauma. It can also be used as therapy to enable the client/patient to accept, heal, let go and move on to a happier place.

My first experience of using art therapeutically was when I collaborated with an art therapist way back in the mid ‘90s in Vancouver, Canada to work with victims and refugees of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. More recently I have referred my patients to art schools, art and music therapists to enhance the healing process. It has been hugely helpful with victims of child sexual abuse. I’ve used art and music to help patients who are chronic sufferers of asthma, skin allergies and even psoriasis. It has been found to be deeply relaxing and therefore supportive in keeping lethal diseases in remission, such as cancer.

More and more we are seeing artists trying to create awareness about anxiety, stress, depression and the use of art including storytelling, charades, mime, various genres of theatre, dance, painting and sculpture using a variety of media.

I suggest that both therapists and other medical professionals look at the huge lacuna in India in the field of mental health therapy and learn more about the areas in mental health that they can provide treatment for.

Art therapy is a supplement, not a substitute for psychotherapy but when handled well and collaboratively, is so effective that it can make a very positive impact on treatment.

Niloufer Ebrahim
Co-Founder at

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