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Visual therapy: how art soothes the angst within

Author: Ann Bailey
Published: Sep 4 2012

It’s quite hard to stroll through an art gallery in a foul mood, even if you’re shuttled there involuntarily via a secondary school field trip. Perhaps it’s the grandiose buildings or the soft interior lighting; perhaps it’s the art itself that lends to the calming atmosphere. This is the main principle behind visual therapy and its ability to relieve a variety of physical, emotional and mental stresses and anxieties.

What is Visual Therapy?

Visual therapy, also referred to as art therapy, is a method of treatment using creative processes like painting, sculpting and sketching to help resolve conflicts, increase people’s communication and interpersonal skills, and reduce stress and anxiety along with improving one’s self-confidence and self-esteem. People seeking out this form of treatment will find themselves in a safe, non-judgmental environment where they are encouraged to express themselves freely through art in order to address current issues or to distract themselves from anxious thoughts and feelings.

How Visual Therapy Uses Art to Manage Stress & Anxiety

- It promotes and allows for spontaneity of expression without the fear of repercussion. This goes a long way towards helping people "come out of their shell" and air what’s grieving them, since most who keep stress bottled up inside do so for fear of backlash from others.

- It uses unpretentious materials (crayons, oil pastels, charcoal, watercolors, etc.) that are uncomplicated and very easy to get the hang of. The organic nature of these materials encourages creativity and serves as a basis of inspiration for people’s art.

- The simple act of being given a large white canvas and filling every blank void with something of your own creation is wholly gratifying and calming. It also gives the artist a feeling of regaining control over a situation, since they get to choose what color or medium to use and how to use it. For those who suffer from anxiety in which they feel they’ve lost control over their lives, this is an important step in helping them overcome that hurdle.

- The process is often combined with compilations of soothing instrumental music, adding another element of calm and creativity to the artistic atmosphere.

- Concentrating on the creative process often takes the mind away from distressing thought and anxious feelings. Other times, people can use art to express what is bothering them as a non-verbal way of admitting, owning, and dealing with it.

- The uses of certain color palettes have emotionally responsive effects on people. Blues and greens can be calming, yellows can be uplifting, black or gray-scale can be depressing, reds can be intimidating and pure white can be overwhelming.

People who make significant strides with their work in visual therapy are often encouraged to take their art home to frame and display it proudly as a reminder of their progress and achievement. Likewise, choosing frames for art prints that are either store-bought or of your own creation give the mind something visual to focus on rather than dwelling on worrying or anxious thoughts. Choosing colors that soothe your stress rather than trigger it will also help to make your home a calm and desirable retreat from the pressures of the outside world, giving you a safe haven to return to at the end of the day.

Ann Bailey is a journalist and artist who contributes research articles for the art print company, In addition to offering the full, ready to hang artwork, the company produces frames for art prints that are available in hundreds of sizes and colors. The online product catalog provides an easy way to achieve good solutions for color and art therapy needs, in a convenient order-from-home format.

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