Art Therapy in Psychosis

The relevance of the study of creativity in psychosis is related to a change of view about mental illness.

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From the work of art therapy in psychosis, it is observed that this type of therapeutic work can contribute to the strengthening of diverse functions. In addition, it improves the sense of competence and self-esteem. It is also a space that allows to contain psychotic anxiety and is a vehicle for the interpersonal relationship. That is why we focus on art therapy as a possible psychotherapeutic intervention in psychosis.

What is psychosis?

It is defined as “a serious mental disorder, with or without organic damage, characterized by the loss of contact with reality and by causing the worsening of normal social functioning”. Thus, being a complicated disorder, there are a variety of treatments and possible therapies. The art therapy approach, in this sense, is oriented to the use of art materials for self-expression and reflection, in the presence of a trained art therapist.

Psychotherapist Katherine Killick argues that in psychotic people, art objects hold the projected material until patients can be able to relate to the therapist’s mind. The work is oriented to offer a structure with time and limits that favors notions of time and structure in his mind.

Thus, Killick explains that one of the functions of the therapist in this psychotherapy through art is to develop ways of mediating between concrete and symbolic thought. Furthermore, in the words of the author, one of the central aspects in the therapeutic use of art in people with psychosis is that it addresses the problems with the limits of ego and the formation of symbols.

The interpersonal relationship in art therapy

In the field of art therapy, Killick identified three areas of communication within the art therapy relationship. These are relevant when working with people affected by schizophrenia. We are talking about interpersonal, intermediary and intrapersonal communications. These are interrelated and exert a continuous influence on each other.

The intrapersonal area

It refers, according to Reyes, to the potential for the creation of images. The therapist maintains it with the person. In this area, the person develops a unique interaction with the artistic materials that can cure the formation of symbols.

The intermediate area

In this area a play space is created in which the person can experiment with objects in a symbolic activity.

The interpersonal area

In this area is the part of the relationship between the patient and the therapist that includes the images.

The expression of creativity in psychosis

Creating something new is doing, doing is producing, and production has – not from a utilitarian perspective but from a psychosocial perspective – a great social, affective, and cognitive value for the subject involved in the task. The word create derives from the Latin creare and to raise, which means that a thing begins to exist where it was not. The word is also associated etymologically to grow.

The relevance of the study of creativity in psychosis is related to a change of view about mental illness. Although it is a serious illness that produces a considerable cognitive, affective, emotional and social deterioration; It must also be recognized that all people possess a potential. This can be fostered and developed, giving another place, another social role to the individual within the community.

Art therapy in psychosis

We know that psychosis is mostly treated through individual and pharmacological psychotherapy. However, many times this type of treatment does not reach the objectives of an interdisciplinary treatment. That is why art therapy can be very useful in the treatment of patients with severe problems such as psychosis.

Art therapy is considered as an intervention modality that is located within the group of support psychotherapies. Supportive therapy is a “long-term therapy aimed at maximizing the patient’s strengths: restoring their psychological balance and recognizing it, but trying to minimize dependence on the therapist”.

The characteristic of self-expression and reflection

Art is a flexible and plastic language. It is a way of communicating the patient with his inner world. In psychosis, the relationship with the external world is altered. Thats why art can serve the subject to communicate their feelings, fantasies and fears. On the other hand, they can serve the health professional to empathize with some experiences of the patient.

Psychotherapeutic effects of art therapy

According to the authors María Aranguren and Tania Elizabeth León, the effects that art can provide as psychotherapy are:

  • Connect the subjective experience with external reality.
  • Promote order, harmony, rhythm and proportion.
  • Produce catharsis and favor emotional clarification, allowing to shape and integrate contradictory feelings.
  • Orient and make sense of personal reality and the world through the use of symbols and metaphors.
  • Stimulate imagery and creative potential.

Thus, it seems clear that art therapy in psychosis can encourage the development of psychological abilities and states that can induce some psychic change. With therapies of this type is intended to improve the quality of life of those affected by psychosis. It seems important to take them into account, at least as complementary treatments.