Applications of art therapy with the disabled: An adequate understanding of the emotional world in the treatment of people with learning disabilities optimizes which other kinds of actions to achieve their objectives more easily. Behavior modification programs or activities aimed at the acquisition of motoric, cognitive, or social skills may be a greater or lesser benefit if at the same time the emotional needs of the patient are not properly addressed.
Art therapy provides a suitable psycho-pedagogical team to approach the problems of the user when the language restrictions preclude access to their emotional world.
Art therapy differs from a plastic workshop that is not an occupational or educational activity. In art therapy the production of more or less decorative objects is not as important as the process of artistic creation itself.
This process does not depend on their disability and their cognitive and motoric abilities, but encourages other potential capacities of the individual. Recognizing these skills and helping empower them helps to improve the quality of life for the art therapy user.
The non-threatening nature of the artistic activity allows users to approach the therapist without entering intolerable levels of anxiety.
The non-directive activity that differentiates this form of treatment allows such patients to participate in activities in which they would not normally be capable of participating.
The art therapy user doesn’t have to possess artistic abilities of any kind, not even the most basic. Drawing a line of the paper or printing on a piece of clay with a finger is enough to begin to establish a work process where, at the pace that suits the individual, the patient will have enough space necessary to safely express his or her emotions and conflicts.
The capacity contained from images made in the presence of an art therapy professional allows the emergence of unbearable, dangerous or forbidden feelings… feelings that if they do not find an exit would be locked inside the person and quite possibly would find other less desirable ways of expression than scribbles on paper or traces of a finger over the clay unconsciously.
The psychotherapist for art has been educated to understand the complexities of the non-verbal languages, especially the ability to decode the visual expression can be useful to the psycho-pedagogical team to help better understand the inner reality of the user and consequently optimizing it for the benefit of therapeutic and educational resources of the center.
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Carles Ramos i Portas
Director of Art Therapy at Metàfora
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