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February 2000

Art therapy

Soul healing

By Angel Hau

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It is a small picture with a layer of shiny, thick, dark paint. In the middle of it, there is an opening exposing some colourful lines beneath the dark paint.

This art work was not created by a famous artist, but an autistic child.

In the past, his self-confidence was so little that he would ask the art therapist’s approval in every step of drawing.

Eventually, after making the artwork, the child experienced a boost in self-confidence.

This illustrates art therapy as a form of psychotherapy for emotional expression and healing through nonverbal means.

“It is not about making beautiful or finished pieces of art.

“It is more about expressing feelings through making art and using art as a tool for communication,” said Ms Julia Byrne, an American registered art therapist and director of Art Therapy Hong Kong.

In other words, art work acts as a tangible product symbolizing one’s inner world.

“Its therapeutic effect is achieved by releasing visual imagery through creating art works, which can enhance connection and verbalization of oneself,” said Ms Byrne, who is also teaching art therapy at the School of Professional and Continuing Education of the Hong Kong University.

“It enables one to address one’s emotional, psychological and developmental needs.

“Moreover, it helps increase one’s self-esteem and confidence,” said she.

Drawing is one of the most common types of art therapy.

Said Ms Byrne: “Participants speak through the images they’ve drawn, which act as a container for their feelings.

“We therapists would not tell them what to draw. It’s all up to their imaginations.

“But the environment is rather essential.

“We always choose rooms with as little decoration as possible because surrounding objects would hinder the participants’ imagination and exploration of unconsciousness.”

Ms Belinda Cheng joined the art therapy workshop after hearing about art therapy from her friends.

Said she: “I once drew a picture of a bird in a maze.

“Actually, the picture reflected my feelings at that time. I was confused and discontented.

“The truth is that most of the time, people know the core issues in their hearts.

“Some may release them through counselling, while others may rely on superstitions like foretelling their fate and future,” said she. “Art therapy, similarly, is another way for people to express their anxiety.”

Music is another way to heal one’s soul.

Holding a doctoral degree in psychology, Mr. Unico Chan has given a few workshops on music therapy.

Said he: “It is easy for people to say things like ‘Don’t be sad any more’ or ‘It’s not good to suppress emotions’.

“We rationally say those words. But when it comes to reality, things are not that easy.”

Lights are switched off when music begins. Then, the participants are brought into a semi-hypnotic condition when listening to the music.

Then they can let their subconsciousness emerge, which may be some suppressed negative emotions or unhappy experiences.

Said Mr. Chan: “There is no fixed type of music for music therapy.

“But I would avoid using songs with lyrics. They contain meanings which affect the consciousness of the participants.”

That’s the amazing power of art therapy — through different forms of art, participants can release their feelings.





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Art therapy allows participants to express themselves by creating their own artwork. (Angel Hau)




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Drawing can help participants release their visual imagery and explore their subconsciousness. (Angel Hau)



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