Depression is widely talked about yet mostly misunderstood. Some believe that depression is simply a set of negative thoughts and feelings of sadness. It is much more complex than feelings and thoughts. Depression is a mental illness which affects more than 350 million people. It is debilitating at a psychological, emotional, social and personal level.
Having depression limits how you interact with people and distorts how you feel about yourself. Depression can be treated but not cured. Having a good support group, a therapist you trust and medication that works, can help a person with depression find healthy coping skills, develop high self-esteem and build loving relationships. The most common misconception is that people ‘don’t look depressed,’ which only serves to invalidate a person’s struggle. Just because you can’t see it, it does not meant it is not present.
In recent years, therapists have found that creativity and art making can be beneficial to people with mental disorders. Giving clients a healthy outlet for their inner struggle, negative moods and self-deprecating behaviors can help transform their difficulties into something beautiful. Creative therapy and art therapy do not serve to replace regular therapy, but rather it supplements talk therapy with a wordless approach to help clients explore meaning and self in a symbolic level.
Art therapy, expressive art therapy and creative therapy offer an array of artistic options for clients. It can range from dance to painting, to drama to music. The options are endless and the benefits are strong and lasting. In his article The Healing Power of Creative Therapy for Depression, Dr. Chris Iliades quotes Routa Segal who states that art-based therapies focus on the “… journey of finding out who you are, where you are, what you have, and what you need to get where you want to be in life.” And the great part about art-based therapies is that you don’t have to consider yourself as an artist to participate. Art-based therapies focus on what you are feeling and what that looks like instead of automatically creating what others might consider beautiful. The psyche does not always create beauty, it creates dark thoughts and deep-seated fears; and letting yourself explore those aspects of your mind helps you find balance and strength.
I invite you to also read Art Therapy as a Treatment for Depression, by Douglass Mitchell, LMFT. The article further explains how art therapy can be beneficial in treating depression.
Mental illnesses are no joke. Being able to have support is important. This includes therapy, medication and healthy coping skills. If you or someone you know needs mental health help, do not be afraid reach out for help; you could end up saving a life.
P.S. Here are some helpful resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Crisis Text line: 741741
- NAMI Air: Anonymous App where you can reach other people who have mental disorder and share your experiences while receiving support