Working through change and transition with art
Change is a necessity, enabling us to move and to grow. Welcomed or otherwise, change and transitional periods are facts of life.
Nobody is immune to the follow-on effects of change. Regardless of whether you embrace change and welcome it with open arms or if it makes you fearful, often changes beyond our control can make it difficult to cope. This is as true for children as it is for adults, meaning transition and change can impact the entire family.
Art is a powerful tool that can unite us, inspire us, and allow us to positively deal with and work through change. As a coping mechanism, art therapy works to calm us during testing times, allow us to express ourselves in ways that aren’t possible verbally and in “traditional” therapy, and aid us in figuring out how best to deal with future changes in our own time- without judgement nor competition.
What makes art therapy so unique is that it allows us, men and women, adults or children, to explore art for arts sake. Art doesn’t force us to slot ourselves and our views into a tidy keyhole- it allows us to express ourselves however we choose. Art in itself is wholly subjective, and much like the way we deal with hardships, it doesn’t involve a “one size fits all” approach. There is no wrong or right way to create art. Art involves no judgement, so art therapy allows us to work through transitional phases in our own time and in our own way.
Have you ever felt an emotion so strongly, be that positively, negatively or anywhere in between, that you simply couldn’t find the right words to express yourself? This is often the case as we deal with change, particularly if that change is brand new and has occurred somewhat abruptly. The beauty of art, and art therapy in particular, is that it allows us to express ourselves without having to find those words. Colour, line, texture and shape give us the tools we need to unconsciously put our feelings onto paper, functioning as a visual way of “venting” our thoughts, fears and frustrations. Expressing ourselves in one way or another is intrinsic to dealing with the stresses associated with change and transition.
Feelings of anxiety are often triggered by change, and art as an outlet has been shown to regulate and calm the nervous system1. When we focus on creating, rather than honing in on stress, we’re able to access the parts of our brains that allow us to deal with these external stresses.
Rather than feeling pressured to find the right words and getting down on ourselves if we can’t, using art to cope with change prevents us from suppressing troubling emotions using mediums other than our words. Art gives us a voice without necessarily having to speak.