Professor introduces students to art therapy

May 13, 2015 Online Exclusive Print Print
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Doing simple but creative art can alleviate everyday pain and stress, said Dr. Jennifer Allen, professor of psychology and art therapy at OCCC.

She gave a presentation on art therapy April 7 to an audience of 30 college students in the college union where she explained what exactly art therapy is.

“Art therapy is the power of healing through art,” Allen said.  “If you think about art therapy in a sense, in really simple form, it’s a form of therapy that utilizes the creative process of art-making to improve health and well being.”

Allen comes from a background of helping children, generally with Attention Deficit Disorder or other problems focusing. One activity for the children is to color on a circular pattern of shapes and figures known as a Mandela that was created by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, a student of world-famous psychologist Sigmund Freud.

The Mandela is often in circular patterns and comes in black and white with abstract shapes and figures that allow the artist to create what they please, Allen said. It is often taught in stress therapy.

Through coloring this conceptual shape, she takes her patients back to their days in kindergarten. The patients often find relief and self-healing through the simple act of coloring and providing their own personal and artistic touch to it.

“When I tell people that I am an art therapist, I often get asked ‘is that a therapy for artists?’ No, not necessarily but it can be,” Allen said. “Basically art therapy is for anyone regardless of your age or your ability. You don’t have to be an artist.”

She went on to explain that art therapy is not about producing art. The therapist is not trying to figure out if something is wrong, but it is non-analytical and the art comes from the patient. That is its overall purpose: to create and heal.

She enumerated some of the helpful benefits of art therapy: it can resolve conflicts, educational problems and disorders. It can improve personal skills, reduce stress and achieve personal insight to one’s self.

One of the main differences art therapy has over any other therapies is that it comes personally through the patient, Allen said.  Art therapy is for anyone and often engages one’s inner-self on a personal level.

It is an art that anyone can create even when words cannot capture the meaning, she said.  Art therapy is used in many settings throughout the world today, such as hospitals, wellness centers, schools, crisis centers and even private practices.

One of the places where it is most effective is with combat veterans who are working to process traumatic events, Allen said.

Allen said art therapy also helps with reducing test anxiety by coloring while studying and coloring before one takes a test. It puts test-takers in a relaxed and calm state of mind. It can help provide a clear mind and relieve stress so students can go in with insight and ace their next test.

So the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, grab some paper and some coloring utensils and see what art therapy can do for you.

For more information call Professor Allen at (405) 682-1611 extension 7212

To contact Brandon Ivey, email onlineeditor@occc.edy

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