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  • Writer's pictureRoger Chen

Painting over the OCD

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Our world is complex. Every single minute of our lives is filled with things that are mental, physical, emotional. It is often difficult for persons to combine these different worlds and to create a worldview for themselves, but this is something that art helps with. Art helps translate something abstract and almost metaphysical into a tangible thing with a structure. It helps to convey feelings and emotions while staying true to oneself. This is why art has been used as a way of relaxation and leisure since time immemorial.

Art therapy

Art therapy is an activity that integrates mental health needs with an understanding of the human brain and experiences. It involves an active and expressive process of creating combined with practical psychological therapy. It involves the work of an art therapist who is clinically trained to handle different mental illnesses. Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, and enhance social skills.

Art therapy gives an image to thoughts and helps medical professionals understand the one’s emotions. The process of converting thought to an image gives shape and structure to something that remains unclear and obscure within the mind. It extends the boundaries of words and language and transcends boundaries to help to understand the real you.

Art therapy and OCD

OCD has either been trivialized or not fully understood. When people have OCD, they are plagued with thoughts that do not make sense and the very process of verbalizing the same can act as a trigger. Most therapists use Cognitive Behavioural Techniques (CBT) to treat OCD. Art therapists are of the opinion that art can be integrated into the process of exposure and response therapy. This move could mainly be beneficial for children suffering from OCD.

Dealing with children is often confusing to therapists because there is little or no self-awareness. In these cases, using art therapy can be an effective method for children to communicate the troubles they are facing.

One more technique that helps is to help convert your intrusive thoughts into some other figure. This helps patients open up easier. This approach can be studied in Sarah Tippit’s work on art therapy. She specifically outlines an example of ranking the level of impact of different thoughts by filling a burrito and associating thoughts with the ingredients of the burrito. This helped the client open up about the problem to a great extent.

Art therapy is relatively new, and it is important to be careful because visual features like shapes and colours can be greatly triggering. In spite of this, one could definitely choose to explore art therapy because it has proven to help to a great extent in cases of depression and anxiety.

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