Art Therapy for Depression

The Journey from Darkness to Light

Art therapy for depression has great healing power. We are creative beings, and our need to express and share both our pain and our healing is an essential part of our humanity. Artistic "talent" or experience is not necessary (and can even be an obstacle) for art therapy. Whether free-form journaling, making music, or creating a work of art -- it is the Process, not the end product that matters. It is "art" if you call it "art." Nobody else has any authority to criticize or evaluate your creative process, or the end result - unless you invite them to do so. The mind's judgment and analysis have no place in the spontaneous expression of the heart and soul.

Man in the Box

"The Man in the Box"
Ben Schwarcz, acrylic on canvas.

I painted this during a very lonely depressing summer when I was 15 years old. I think it really conveyed my feelings of despair, hopelessness and teenage angst that I was experiencing. I spent a couple of weeks in my basement working on this painting, absorbed in the details of the image, and when I was done, my depression was gone. It was very liberating to allow myself to get completely into the process and feeling, and expression of this image. This was my first experience of "art therapy for depression" and a valuable lesson in self-acceptance.

How can I begin to use art therapy for depression?

There are several possibilities. First, you can seek out a Registered Art Therapist - someone who is specifically trained and certified to use art as a therapeutic modality. Another option is to find a licensed psychotherapist that you connect well with, who is also trained in using art therapy (many therapists do have some training in this area). You will have to interview them and ask specific questions about what they do and how they do it, in order to really compare one to another.

Lastly, if you are unable to find a suitable art therapist, but don't feel comfortable in doing art on your own, finding a good art class, art teacher, or meet-up group that is centered around some form of art might be a good option.

And finally, although there is tremendous value in having a compassionate, skilled art therapist to guide you in expressing yourself through art (and can help you to gain insight and self discovery in the process), for some people this may not be available or feasible. In that case, this would be an excellent time to simply begin on your own!

How to I begin to do art if I have no experience? And how do I do art therapy on my own?

Strictly speaking, you are not going to do therapy with yourself. But you must understand that all art, is, by it's very nature, therapeutic. Art heals. So does music. Creativity is part of your true nature as a human being. To find some form of creative expression, will activate the right hemisphere of the brain. The right brain is actually the side that is more associated with states of depression (whereas the linear, goal directed, verbal left side tends to be more associated with mania).

We all need to have a good left-right or "whole brain" balance in order to function our best, to be fully integrated, emotionally stable and mentally healthy. Critical thinking, analyzing, intellectualizing, problems solving, planning. These left-brain functions are all useful in their own ways at times, and in cognitive-behavioral therapy, this kind of concrete organizing thought process can have great value. However, the intellect does not make room for the right brain to express itself. Art does that. Music does that. Poetry does that. Visualization does that. When we express ourselves through art - in a non-judgmental way - without self-criticism - we open up a whole new part of the inner self. It is the magic part. The spiritual part. The emotional part. The innocent inner child part. And it is here that healing takes place and miracles happen. Moods change. Life returns.

So just begin now! With as little critical thinking as possible. A picture's worth a thousand words. Sometimes there are no words to express the deepest parts of our experience and our feelings.

My favorite visionary artist - Nicholas Roerich (1874 - 1947), a Russian born Mystic, Humanitarian, Artist, Writer, and Philosopher...

Visions of Transformation - Embracing Darkness and Light

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

finding myself 
Finding myself is how I paint, being in a mood to where I'm lost I put myself together piece by piece.

The Journey 
There is a journey to come out of depression that is different for each of us. In itself it is a very emotional and turmoiled season as help may be sought. …

I Cannot Go Any Further 
There are those time in depression, when I just cannot go any further. I tend to disconnect from my life as a i knew it, and retreat into a very alone …

With depression often comes anxiety, and for me, it meant many a sleepless, restless, uneasy night watch. The nights seemed so long, and sometimes I admit …

The Ladder I 
I found the ladder to be a very symbolic aspect of depression for me, with the rungs representing different aspects of coming out of the depressive experience …

The Hiding Place 
A deep desire to disappear and go away where no one would know where I was. My situation is having to use the court system against my own son for continual …

This was the first time that I painted what I was feeling. It was amazingly cathartic and the beginning of discovering how art could help me express the …

The Restraining Order 1 Not rated yet
A 6 month restraining order against someone in my life for harassment has been a type of imprisonment for both me and the object of the order. You are …

Life after death Not rated yet
This piece of art helped me see the beginning to the end of a long relationship that began when we met at the young age of 13. I married this Man Dec 9 …

freedom Not rated yet
i painted this piece about 3 years ago. i am a professional artist and very interested in the journey of healing that art has to offer us. when i was …

Healing Not rated yet
The images of this painting arose out of layers and layers of colors. I had nothing in mind when I started. It reminds me of the constant challenge of …

How Did I Get Here? Not rated yet
While browsing through discarded books at a library one day, quite a few years ago now, I came upon a book of extremely powerful poetry by Micheal Davidson. …

Disconnect Not rated yet
This piece was created after my grandma lost her battle with cancer. I feel that the contrast between the flowers and image that represents myself show …

Eternal Bliss Not rated yet
A bunch of flowers during the spring

Torn Not rated yet
This is a poem or whatever, that I made, it expresses my feelings from when I was really depressed a couple of months ago. The drawing I made is from …

I welcome any submissions of art images that you would care to post on the site. Each accepted image will have it's own page on this website. My hope is that eventually this section of the website will be filled with an evocative collection of artwork that may provide solace, hope and inspiration for others to find healing through their artistic expression. You can use the form above for your submissions to the art therapy for depression page.

Guided Meditations for Depression, Anxiety and Stress

Learn more about depression and what you can do about it.

For more information about the field of art therapy visit the site of the American Art Therapy Association, Inc.

If you are interested in consultation, Psychotherapy, Coaching meditation instruction, or art therapy for depression:

Contact Ben Schwarcz, MFT

Art Therapy for Depression. Copyright 2004-2023.                   

Ben Schwarcz, MFT.

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