Art therapy: A low pressure environment for self-exploration and healing

Art therapy: A low pressure environment for self-exploration and healing

Whether you consider yourself to be a creative person or not, there is a good chance that art therapy will help you to know yourself better and process your past experiences, as well as improve your mental health.

You don't need permission to engage with the arts

A lot of us feel like we somewhat need permission to engage with the arts. Some of us might have gained permission through getting an art degree or by being told by our parents that we were good at drawing in school. However, a lot of us feel like it's not for us.

Historically, the arts have been deemed highbrow and  only suitable for those who possessed certain skills or gravitated around certain environments. Nowadays, not only have the arts become more participatory and diversified their shapes and forms, but they have also become a means to heal when combined with art therapy.

A gateway into the unconscious

Art therapy provides a way to surpass the language barrier and explore experiences that have not been processed.

"It's a form of psychological intervention. It’s more based  on a psychodynamic model than a creative arts workshop. The unconscious can come to the surface through the art world and be communicated with the therapist and contained. The therapist can help the client go through it without having to talk about it too much. This can be helpful in order to avoid re-traumatising the client, especially when they don't really know what’s bothering them."

Lee Anna Simmons, art and EMDR therapist

How does art therapy work?

Angel by L. A. Simmons. Oil on linen, 2014. Made using bilateral brushstrokes, experimenting with EMDR and Art Therapy.

A session typically starts by assessing a client's history and aims, which then inform the therapeutic framework. Art therapy can take a psychodynamic approach, drawing inspiration from psychoanalysis. It takes a view into the unconscious and helps to process and resolve deep-rooted feelings developed beginning with childhood. Often, the conscious mind can block these emotions and deny them, causing  them to manifest in one's mood or behaviour. This can result in denial, projections and ultimately, mental health problems.

Based on this framework, the client is prompted to use the art materials. The spontaneity of art enables raw and at times incoherent feelings and thoughts to come out, which the therapist welcomes with no judgement. This way, the client becomes more honest and open - both with the therapist and with themselves.

"Engaging with the art materials takes the pressure off the client compared to being face-to-face. It gives them something to do with their hands, which engages a different part of their brain simultaneously."

Lee Anna Simmons, art and EMDR therapist

Art therapy can benefit both children and adults, irrespective of background and skills. Whether you are struggling with depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, or simply wish to know yourself better, you may want to explore art therapy.

You can learn more about Lee Anna's work and book a session with her here. Want to learn more about creative therapy practices? Check out our article on music therapy and dramatherapy!

Find out more about how we can support you with your mental health and wellbeing here. For any questions, email