Art therapy can be an excellent addition to a treatment program for schizophrenia, providing a much-needed outlet for expression.
Art therapy is a therapeutic use of arts to help people express thoughts that might be difficult or unpleasant to express in words.
For people with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, art therapy can help people communicate their symptoms, including hallucinations, without needing to describe them. This can help therapists and family members gain a better understanding of the person with schizophrenia and can help the person with schizophrenia gain new self-awareness.
Art therapy isn’t a stand-alone treatment, but when used in addition to treatments such as medication or counseling, it’s beneficial for many people with schizophrenia.
Art therapy allows people to express their thoughts and feelings in creative ways. With the help of an art therapist, art therapy programs can be a way for people with a variety of mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, to get things off their chest without the need for words.
For people with schizophrenia, art therapy can also be a way to communicate images from hallucinations or feelings that they don’t fully understand. This can give the person experiencing hallucinations an outlet to discuss them and can help give therapists and family members a window into what the person with schizophrenia is seeing and going through.
Additionally, art therapy can be a great way for people with schizophrenia to stay engaged and active. This helps fight the side effects of many psychiatric medications, such as confusion or drowsiness.
Different methods of art therapy, like sand tray therapy, can be especially helpful for children with schizophrenia.
Art therapy can help people with schizophrenia understand their own feelings and thoughts with the use of paints, clays, charcoals, or other art materials.
Art therapy is typically considered to be beneficial for people with schizophrenia. There is very little risk involved with art therapy, and for many people, there are numerous positive effects.
People with schizophrenia who have art therapy as part of treatment report benefits such as improved self-image, and self-awareness, and are sometimes better able to communicate symptoms, thoughts, and emotions.
However, art therapy isn’t a stand-alone treatment for schizophrenia. Although it has many benefits, it’s not recommended for use on its own to treat schizophrenia. Typically, art therapy is an addition to a person’s treatment program. For instance, someone with schizophrenia might have a treatment plan that includes medication, counseling, and therapy sessions ― alongside art therapy sessions.
Famous artists with schizophrenia
There are people in all fields and all areas of life with schizophrenia, including celebrities and notable artists. Many artists throughout the centuries, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar Degas, famously experienced significant mental health conditions, but are not known to have had schizophrenia.
However, there are some famous artists who were diagnosed with schizophrenia. These include:
- Norwegian expressionist painter Edvard Munch, born in 1863, is known for his now iconic painting The Scream.
- French sculptor Camille Claudel, born in 1864, is known for her figure work in marble and bronze.
- British painter Richard Dadd, born in 1817, is known for his depictions of supernatural scenes.
- British artist Louis Wain, born in 1860, is known for his recognizable drawings of cats.
- American abstract painter Agnes Martin, born in 1912, is known for her minimalist work in the abstract expressionist art movement.
- Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, born in 1929, is known for her sculptural and installation works, as well as contributions to fashion and written arts.
Art therapy sessions can be group or individual. During an individual therapy session, the person with schizophrenia will be guided by their therapist to create an art piece.
Typically, a person will first select the materials they’d like to use from available options, and will then have a discussion with their therapist about what they’re thinking of drawing, painting, or making. The person will be given time during the session to work on their art. Once they’re done, they’ll discuss what they’ve made, and what they were trying to express, with their therapist.
In group sessions, the goal will still be to help people with schizophrenia express their thoughts and emotions through art. However, there will be additional goals, such as working with others, making conversation, and following along in a more structured setting. Participants will have the chance to work on these life and social skills as they create an art piece.
In either type of art therapy, the most important element is that the person with schizophrenia is able to gain something from the experience. There are no goals for artistic improvements and no art skills to be learned. Art therapy can be useful for people at any level of artistic skill and experience.
Many people associate mental health conditions, especially conditions such as schizophrenia, with artistic talent. This myth shows up in fiction-based movies, books, and television shows, and sometimes even in the misinformed discussions of real-life artists.
However, it’s important to note that this is a myth. Although there are artistic people who have schizophrenia and other mental health conditions, those conditions do not cause artistic interest or talent.
In fact, the symptoms of conditions such as schizophrenia can be incredibly frightening and disruptive for the person experiencing them. Instead of improving art and artistic skills, they can lead to symptoms and co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, and lethargy that can cause a person to lose their artistic motivation and passion.
The exact costs for art therapy will depend on where you live, your insurance, and the facility or program you receive art therapy from.
Some insurance plans cover treatments such as art therapy under mental health coverage, but others don’t pay for therapies outside of traditional counseling or behavioral therapies. You can call your plan or check the details of your insurance plan online to find out more.
Art therapy can be a beneficial part of a treatment plan for people with schizophrenia. Art therapy helps people express their thoughts and feelings without having to find the right words. It can be a great way for people to describe hallucinations and other symptoms of mental health conditions such as schizophrenia.
Although art therapy isn’t a stand-alone treatment for schizophrenia, it’s associated with positive outcomes when it’s used alongside side traditional treatments such as medication and therapy. For many people, there is no risk to trying art therapy, and insurance might cover some of the costs.
If you’re curious about art therapy, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your doctor, psychiatrist, or another member of your care team. They might be able to guide you and let you know if they think art therapy will be beneficial for you.