Mindfulness-based art therapy combines forms of mindfulness and art to offer a method to help manage psychological issues, particularly among those experiencing other problems such as physical illness or end-of-life concerns. If you or a loved one is struggling with these types of issues, MBAT offered through a psychotherapist or other mental health professional or practiced on your own at home could be helpful in improving your quality of life and general psychological well-being.
Combining mindfulness concepts with art therapy results in the therapeutic treatment known as mindfulness-based art therapy as first proposed by Rappaport. This treatment combines the philosophy of mindfulness within an art therapy setting. In other words, you engage in the creative process of making art as a way to explore yourself (in a mindful manner).
MBAT has slowly gained recognition as a tool for improvement in the field of psychology, though research-based evidence is still lacking, particularly with respect to studies with both treatment and control groups (to confirm that MBAT is better than a placebo treatment). Another name for mindfulness-based art therapy is "focusing-oriented art therapy," reflecting the emphasis on shifting focus as part of the experience.
In proposing the concept of MBAT, Rappaport incorporated the work of psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin's theory on focusing. Gendlin noticed that the clients who improved the most in therapy were the ones who connected to their inner physical self. In essence, mindfulness-based art therapy connects the imagination to the body and allows the expression of feelings that you can't get express in words.
Numerous benefits of mindfulness-based art therapy have been identified through empirical research. Some of the psychological issues that have shown promise in terms of their response to MBAT include the following (particularly in people with combined physical illnesses):
- anxiety disorders
- eating disorders
- substance abuse (relapse prevention)
- depressive disorders
- stress-related issues
- anger-related issues
Often, MBAT is used with individuals with physical illnesses to relieve psychological concerns, including those with coronary artery disease (CAD) and different types of cancer. For these individuals, mindfulness-based art therapy may help to lower distress levels and improve quality of life.
Some of the specific psychological benefits of MBAT that have been demonstrated in the literature include the following:
- improved psychological stability
- improved quality of life (QoL)
- changes in brain patterns reflecting a calm, focused state of attention
- thicker and more developed gray matter areas in the brain
- development of neural pathways in your brain that enable you to create and focus on art making
- reduced cognitive avoidance in which you become less aware of what you are thinking and doing when experiencing psychological distress
- improved intuition and trust in your own body (how you are feeling and what it means)increased emotional awareness
- increased sense of control and ability to share inner thoughts
- improved awareness of underlying issues that have been hidden
- ability to communicate abstract feelings
- increased self-esteem and self-acceptance
- improved attention span
Finally, mindfulness-based art therapy is beneficial because it can be easier to practice than attending psychotherapy appointments (in the case of self-help MBAT). Meditation can be practiced on your own at home as can many art-based forms of mindfulness.
While this doesn't replace interaction with a therapist, there are endless possibilities in terms of cost-efficient ways to implement MBAT in your daily life to combat stress and manage psychological difficulties.