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Art Therapy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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The long isolation, built-up anxieties, fears of an uncertain future, loss of income, and dealing with the loss of loved ones is all part of the COVID-19 pandemic’s emotional challenges. As an expressive creative psychotherapist for the past 30 years, I have been helping adult patients take control of their lives by gaining insight from their own art projects, with the goal of developing into the unique person that each individual is. 

When emotional troubles reach a level of distress that one can’t handle alone, a professional art therapist can help contain the pain and redirect negative energies – healing the past and preparing for a meaningful future. We engage in an exploration of our fears, difficult childhood memories and how it affects us today – triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, and all it has brought with it.

We grow together after appreciating the colours and brush strokes, and learn new ways of accepting ourselves using the Mandala Colour Expression. Any previous artistic knowledge is not necessary for expressing oneself in colours.

There is a whole new language of secrets from one’s unconscious to their modified behaviour. It is personal and very individual. The patient is the captain of their own ship; their life’s journey. I will be there to assist with the inner investigation, to direct us to self-accomplishment, with positive therapeutic analysis and insight. The patient will acquire skills to reach their passion, goals and destiny.

Art therapy is not an art class, but rather a shift in our thinking. Being creative is a fun way to explore who we are, where we want to be, and how to overcome the resulting damage caused by the pandemic, in both body and mind.

We engage in that meaningful ‘me’, accepting unconditionally the emotions that have been born with COVID-19, trying to find a new list of priorities of our lives.

A new sense of vitality is created in the treatment’s artistic work. A triangle of three present figures working together (patient, therapist and artwork) to document and explore the nuances of the inner self, the aspirations and lessons that are learned from failure, thus becoming stronger each time. The self-esteem rises as the artwork reflects the beauty of the soul, through the colours and shapes. The creative experience being shared by the therapist and the patient is almost miraculous, as the research for growth and discovery of hidden strengths appear on the canvas.

We use a variety of art medium (clay, crayons, paint, and glue for collages), as well as therapeutic journalling to uncover deep emotions. This method has proven to be a successful means of psychotherapy, achieving results much more rapidly than ‘speaking on Freud’s couch’. Through art therapy painful memories, misunderstood dreams, relationships and personal goals are directly exposed.

With all forms of art we begin allowing the imagination to guide us. The trauma of the current pandemic has a wide range of reactions, as each person experiences what may be unfamiliar feelings in a new situation, differently than the next. The rebuilding of a sick, weak, terrified person back into a higher energy-level state is a difficult struggle.

There will be the successful removal of leftover debris in the aftermath of the trauma that we experienced in these past few months. The successful psychological outcome is testimony to the benefits gained from by the artwork. It is a pure reflection of one’s control, and acceptance of what is not always understood rationally. 

The use of the Mandala for therapeutic purposes was first used by Carl Jung. The circle shape has no beginning or end, and contains deep, abstract colours and shapes reflecting our emotions. The patient is in the centre of the Mandala circle. Their whole intimate world fills up the circle. From this drawing we get valuable information. This is where we begin the insightful analysis.  

Art therapy discovers this unique developmental process, as we use it to gradually analyse the private symbols found in a sequence of drawings. A shorter session that discloses deeper issues and leads to behavioural changes results in improvement of the spiritual self.


Image credit: Freepik

Dr Rushy Scholnick has more than 30 years of professional experience helping adults overcome psychological challenges. She earned her MA in Creative Expressive Psychotherapy in New York and holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology. 

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