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The Benefits of Art Therapy for OCD

written by: Amanda Smith • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/14/2010

Creating art can be an incredibly therapeutic process. There are many emotional benefits that can be gained from art therapy for OCD. Continue reading to learn more about art therapy and how making art can be helpful to people who suffer from OCD.

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    What is Art Therapy?

    The process of making art has many therapeutic qualities. Not only does it serve as a strong form of emotional expression, it can also be a great coping skill for people suffering from mental illness including depression, anxiety, and OCD. Therapists often use art in their therapy practice to promote a visual awareness of feelings. Using art, therapists can also teach people healthy artistic coping skills that they can use to decrease stress.

    Certified art therapists are therapists who also have a background in art. They provide art therapy exclusively and have a vast knowledge of how art making and our emotions are intertwined. There are also many therapists who utilize art in combination with or as a supplement to other forms of therapy such as CBT. Art therapists often use a wide array of media in their practice, including things like paint, crayons, glue, magazine cut outs, modeling clay, pottery making, and print making. The possibilities are practically endless in coming up with creative ideas to use in art therapy. The key is in finding what types of art making are the most therapeutic to the person seeking treatment.

    Click here for more information on the history of art therapy

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    Art Therapy and OCD

    There are many ways that art therapy can help someone who is suffering from OCD. Therapists can use art making to help their clients cope with their irrational thoughts, while teaching a self soothing skill for when their anxiety feels out of control. People who suffer from OCD often have intrusive thoughts that make them extremely uncomfortable. Exposing themselves to their fear is the best way to decrease the power of the thought. However, this process can be extremely uncomfortable. For example, someone who has an irrational fear of being exposed to germs will have a hard time facing their fear head on. Therapists can use art therapy to help the client gradually create a picture of a germ infested area, like a bathroom. This can serve of incremental exposure to the fear.

    Art therapy for OCD can also be a therapeutic way to refocus the mind. People who suffer from OCD typically have a hard time moving on from a period of stressful thinking. It can feel almost impossible to get their mind off of their intrusive thought. Having a tool box of art therapy coping skills can help them channel their energy to something more positive.

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    Ideas for Using Art Therapy at Home

    While art therapy for OCD is most effective when done through working with a mental health professional, there are some techniques that can be done at home to help people cope with obsessive compulsive disorder. These should not be used in replacement of therapy services, but rather as a supplement.

    Glass Painting

    So you think you can't draw? Glass painting can be an easy way to get involved in something creative and therapeutic. You can purchase drinking glasses or glass vases at your local art store. You can find paint that is specifically made for glass, or use any basic acrylic paint. Be aware that acrylic paint is not washable. You can find clear protecting sprays in the paint section at your local art store.

    Tie Dye T-shirt Making

    Making t-shirts can also be a way that you can keep yourself busy. This is an easy and inexpensive art project that can help you refocus your mind. You can buy a tie dye t-shirt making kit at your local art store, or you can simply use rubber bands and any color fabric dye. If you have children, this can also be a fun way to engage with your family which is therapeutic in itself.

    Soap Making

    Making soap is another simple art project that you can do to help yourself clear your mind. You can find soap making kits at your local art store. You can also purchase all different kinds of soap molds, soap dyes, and scented oils to use in the process.

    Sometimes it can be hard to think of what to do. Getting out of the house and venturing to an art store can be a fun way to get out of the house and get inspired to make some fun creative crafts while taking care of your mental health.

    Click here for other natural ways to treat OCD

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    Resources

    http://www.americanarttherapyassociation.org/aata-history-background.html

    http://www.arttherapy.org/

    I wrote this article based on my education and experience in mental health