The healing powers of art are most evident in treating mental health issues
If art is a medium to express abstract thoughts, the canvas allows one tochannelize those thoughts with colours. Thus painting is often of great value for people who struggle to express themselves, particularly those with mental health issues. Rashida Kalangi, an artist, and Surbhi Dayama, a certified psychologist, started an initiative they call‘Art Therapy’ in Hyderabad, where they use art workshops as a therapeutic tool for those who experience mental illness, trauma or challenges in living as well as those who seek personal development.
SaysKalangi,“There are people who cannot pen down whatever they want to say but with colours they can depict their thoughts with it.” Adds Dayama“People go through several mental problems, be it depression or any kind of pressure from either office or college. At that point of time, art provides a medium to divert their anxieties into a world of creativity.In our workshops you don’t need to know how to draw, you just need to grab some colours and a canvas and you can start expressing your thoughts.”
Launched last year, the workshops are divided into two sessions. The first focusses on the therapeutic element (usually run by Dayama) while the second deals with some of the technical aspects of painting, which is handled by Kalangi. Participants pay a minimal fee to register and all the materials are provided by the program.
“Art has power to heal,” says Dayama.“It is like a meditative process. I have dealt with few people and friends who have undergone some serious issues mentally and at that time I realised art can be used to heal and decided to start these workshops. Once I met with a person who was dealing with depression and medication was not helping her. Then she joined our workshops and I watched her every mood and as she painted they would change dramatically.”
Adds Kalangi, “Art therapy has the ability to address mental health problems by enabling participants to express their feelings or any experiences they have gone through. One creates a painting based on how one is feeling at the moment or how one is seeing the world. We remove the stigma associated with mental health in the process.”
There’s not much difference between abstract texture painting and art therapy, it is all about the imagination, the co-founders say. As Dayama recollects, “Once we got a participant who grabbed some acrylic paints and painted layer after layer of colours. After she completed the art piece, we looked at it and realised the painting depicted a cross section of the Earth, from its core to the upper-most layer. She used some red and orange shades at the bottom and some white-based colours on the top, and the fun part is she did this unintentionally.”
Says one of the participants of the workshop, “I didn’t know what to do on weekends so I’d go out but still feel so stressed out. Then I came across this creative workshop where I felt alive once again. Now on weekends I spend time with myself by just doing something creative with colours.”
“Family members should encourage people to share their feelings and anxieties but most people don’t feel safe to talk about their deepest thoughts and fears. Here we give them space to create anything with colours without being judged,” explains Dayama.
The therapeutic value of art therapy isn’t a recent discovery. Working with the wounded in the Crimean War, the celebrated English social reformer and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale observed, “Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in the object presented to patients are an actual means of recovery.”