The Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (2023)

You have probably heard of both mindfulness and art therapy—but have you heard of mindfulness-based art therapy (MBAT)? This relatively new concept was first formally introduced by psychologist and writer Laury Rappaport in 2009 in her book "Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies." In its simplest sense, MBAT combines the benefits of mindfulness training (for example, meditation) within the structure of an art therapy framework.

The Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (1)

Definition of MBAT

There are several components that are involved in creating the concept of mindfulness-based art therapy.

Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness originated from Buddhist practice and reflects a focus on awareness of emotions, physical sensations in the body, and consciousness. When you are being mindful, you have an enhanced ability in terms of your self-awareness and capacity to reflect on your experience and daily life.

Art Therapy

Art therapy first became popularized as a form of treatment in the 1940s as a method of utilizing art either as an approach to therapy or as part of psychotherapy itself. To understand what this means, consider two examples:

  • In "art as therapy," you as a client would create art as a way to identify and release emotions that you've been holding inside.
  • In "art psychotherapy," your therapist would analyze art that you create to develop insight into your psychological issues and emotions.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

A precursor to mindfulness-based art therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is used to help clients approach situations from a place of acceptance and awareness. In this way, MBSR is a technique to improve your understanding of your inner self and emotions. MBSR makes use of techniques such as body scanning and meditation.

Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy

Combining mindfulness concepts with art therapy results in the therapeutic treatment known as mindfulness-based art therapy as first proposed by Rappaport. This treatment combines the philosophy of mindfulness within an art therapy setting. In other words, you engage in the creative process of making art as a way to explore yourself (in a mindful manner).

MBAT has slowly gained recognition as a tool for improvement in the field of psychology, though research-based evidence is still lacking, particularly with respect to studies with both treatment and control groups (to confirm that MBAT is better than a placebo treatment). Another name for mindfulness-based art therapy is "focusing-oriented art therapy," reflecting the emphasis on shifting focus as part of the experience.

In proposing the concept of MBAT, Rappaport incorporated the work of psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin's theory on focusing. Gendlin noticed that the clients who improved the most in therapy were the ones who connected to their inner physical self. In essence, mindfulness-based art therapy connects the imagination to the body and allows the expression of feelings that you can't get express in words.

Benefits

Numerous benefits of mindfulness-based art therapy have been identified through empirical research. Some of the psychological issues that have shown promise in terms of their response to MBAT include the following (particularly in people with combined physical illnesses):

  • anxiety disorders
  • eating disorders
  • substance abuse (relapse prevention)
  • depressive disorders
  • stress-related issues
  • anger-related issues

Often, MBAT is used with individuals with physical illnesses to relieve psychological concerns, including those with coronary artery disease (CAD) and different types of cancer. For these individuals, mindfulness-based art therapy may help to lower distress levels and improve quality of life.

Some of the specific psychological benefits of MBAT that have been demonstrated in the literature include the following:

  • improved psychological stability
  • improved quality of life (QoL)
  • changes in brain patterns reflecting a calm, focused state of attention
  • thicker and more developed gray matter areas in the brain
  • development of neural pathways in your brain that enable you to create and focus on art making
  • reduced cognitive avoidance in which you become less aware of what you are thinking and doing when experiencing psychological distress
  • improved intuition and trust in your own body (how you are feeling and what it means)
  • increased emotional awareness
  • increased sense of control and ability to share inner thoughts
  • improved awareness of underlying issues that have been hidden
  • ability to communicate abstract feelings
  • increased self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • improved attention span

Finally, mindfulness-based art therapy is beneficial because it can be easier to practice than attending psychotherapy appointments (in the case of self-help MBAT). Meditation can be practiced on your own at home as can many art-based forms of mindfulness.

(Video) Effects of Mindfulness Based Art Therapy on Sleep - Research Proposal

While this doesn't replace interaction with a therapist, there are endless possibilities in terms of cost-efficient ways to implement MBAT in your daily life to combat stress and manage psychological difficulties.

Examples of MBAT

What exactly does MBAT look like in practice? While it's often administered in a therapy setting, many of these activities you could also implement your own at home. Let's take a look at some examples of mindfulness-based art therapy techniques to give you some sense of what to expect (if you are meeting with a therapist for the first time).

Do something for one hour a week that integrates mindfulness and art, and you'll more than likely see benefits to your psychological health.

  • Draw a picture of yourself. This is an exercise in self-acceptance. Try to make the picture as realistic as possible and be accepting of any "flaws" that you identify in the picture.
  • Mindfully study art materials. Examine art with a mindful eye using all five of your senses. What do you see, feel, touch, hear, taste? Engage in sensory stimulation and monitor your responses to all forms of art in your daily life.
  • Use art to express emotions. As you paint, sculpt, draw, or otherwise create art, try to channel the emotions and feelings you are experiencing in your body. Observe any physical sensations while you are drawing or coloring. Express happy or stressful events from your week through your art. Retrieve the feelings that you experience in your body and display them in your art to help recognize your own unmet needs and hidden emotions that you have yet found a way to communicate or notice.
  • Notice pain changing. If you live with chronic pain due to a physical illness, notice how your pain changes as you create art.
  • Paint and walk. Paint the bottoms of your feet and create art by walking on paper.
  • Create a collage. Make a collage that expresses your feelings and emotions.
  • Before-and-after art pieces. Take notice of how you feel before and after creating an art piece to see if you notice improvements in your psychological well-being.

MBAT With Children

Mindfulness-based art therapy has been used with children experiencing trauma or who are going through physical illness and are hospitalized. For example, children might be asked to draw pictures to imagine the future or to share how they are feeling. When used with children, MBAT has been shown to increase self-awareness, resilience, and self-compassion.

Alternative MBAT

In addition to traditional art-making, mindfulness-based art therapy can include drama therapy and musical therapy. These forms of MBAT make use of art to transform feelings and improve relaxation. For example, children will physical illnesses might observe a play by actors incorporating breathing and imagery instructions so that they learn to participate in mindfulness.

Palliative Care and MBAT

For patients nearing the end of life, mindfulness-based art therapy can be helpful to connect with spirituality, meaning in life, faith, and peace. While MBAT cannot help to reduce physical symptoms of illness, it may be useful in improving emotional well-being and psychological strength during times of distress, reflecting the goals of palliative care.

A Word From Verywell

Mindfulness-based art therapy combines forms of mindfulness and art to offer a method to help manage psychological issues, particularly among those experiencing other problems such as physical illness or end-of-life concerns. If you or a loved one is struggling with these types of issues, MBAT offered through a psychotherapist or other mental health professional or practiced on your own at home could be helpful in improving your quality of life and general psychological well-being.

What Is Art Therapy?

Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

(Video) Mindfulness based Art Therapy

The Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (2)

By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."

(Video) 2 Mindfulness based art therapy(MBAT)

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FAQs

What are the benefits of using art for mindfulness? ›

The benefits of mindfulness-based art therapy include: reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood and self-esteem, more fulfilling personal relationships, deeper insight and ways to develop compassion for yourself and others.

What are 5 benefits of mindfulness? ›

Mindfulness can: help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, , improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.

What is mindfulness-based art therapy? ›

Mindfulness-based Art Therapy (MBAT) is an approach that incorporates mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga into the practice of art therapy to promote health, wellness and adaptive responses to stress.

What are the strengths of the mindfulness-based treatments? ›

If you are struggling, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, also known as MBCT, may help. MBCT and other meditative practices have been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, lower stress and cortisol levels, and are beneficial for all ages.

What are four benefits of art therapy? ›

Helped reduce pain, decrease symptoms of stress and improve quality of life in adult cancer patients. Improved ability to deal with pain and other frightening symptoms in children with cancer. Reduced stress and anxiety in children with asthma. Stimulated mental function in older adults with dementia.

How are mindfulness and art connected? ›

Mindful Art often induces a Flow State and you are encouraged to notice your breath, thoughts, sensations, emotions, etc while making art. Mindful Meditative Art is a creative form of meditation. Whether you're an experienced artist, meditator, or have no previous experience this practice is for you!

What are the 7 principles of mindfulness? ›

  • Non-judging. Be an impartial witness to your own experience. ...
  • Patience. A form of wisdom, patience demonstrates that we accept the fact that.
  • Beginner's Mind. Remaining open and curious allows us to be receptive to new.
  • Trust. Develop a basic trust with yourself and your feelings. ...
  • Non-Striving. ...
  • Acceptance. ...
  • Letting Go.

What are the 8 pillars of mindfulness? ›

The 8 Pillars of Mindfulness
  • Session 1: Attention & the Now. A core component of mindfulness practices, is focusing attention on the present moment. ...
  • Session 2: Automaticity. ...
  • Session 3: Judgment. ...
  • Session 4: Acceptance. ...
  • Session 5: Goals. ...
  • Session 6: Compassion. ...
  • Session 7: The Ego. ...
  • Session 8: Integration.
3 Jun 2019

What are the 3 qualities of mindfulness? ›

In general, they seek to develop three key characteristics of mindfulness: Intention to cultivate awareness (and return to it again and again) Attention to what is occurring in the present moment (simply observing thoughts, feelings, sensations as they arise) Attitude that is non-judgmental, curious, and kind.

What are the 4 mindfulness techniques? ›

Next time you find your mind racing with stress, try the acronym S.T.O.P.:
  • S – Stop what you are doing, put things down for a minute.
  • T – Take a breath. ...
  • O – Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. ...
  • P – Proceed with something that will support you in the moment.
26 Oct 2022

What is art therapy most effective for? ›

Research supports their assessment: for example, art therapy helps people feel more in control of their own lives, and helps relieve anxiety and depression, including among cancer patients, tuberculosis patients in isolation, and military veterans with PTSD.

What are mindfulness based interventions used for? ›

MBIs have been shown to increase positive psychological attributes, such as mindfulness, meta-awareness, and self-compassion. In addition, MBIs have been shown to reduce negative thinking patterns and reactions associated with psychopathology, such as rumination, worry, and emotional reactivity.

What are the 4 core elements of mindfulness? ›

Let's explore together some of the elements that seem to be key in practicing mindfulness.
  • Awareness. ...
  • Intention and Attitude. ...
  • Presence. ...
  • Insight. ...
  • References:
30 Dec 2017

What is mindfulness advantages and disadvantages? ›

You may experience greater self and social awareness, two mental assets that help significantly in regulating mood and emotions. Cons of Being Mindful: It takes work, practice, and personal effort. Its just another thing you should do. Sometimes, being more aware can actually increase personal frustration or judgment.

Who is mindfulness-based therapy most effect for? ›

Research suggests that MBCT can be effective for helping individuals who have experienced multiple episodes of depression. 3 While it was originally developed to treat depression, it has also been shown to be effective for other uses including: Anxiety disorders. Bipolar disorder.

What are two benefits to art therapy? ›

It encourages the development of healthy coping strategies. Therapy can facilitate insight, empathy, and acceptance of other's life challenges. It is capable of promoting problem-solving skills. Art therapy is capable of exploring, managing, and providing insight into traumatic experiences.

Why is art therapy effective in mental health? ›

Art is an inherently enjoyable experience, which can be a powerful tool in a therapy setting. It can give you the opportunity to express your inner thoughts, while helping you to better understand and make sense of your emotions and your mental health.

What are the benefits of art on mental health? ›

Studies have shown that expressing themselves through art can help people with depression, anxiety, or cancer, too. And doing so has been linked to improved memory, reasoning, and resilience in healthy older people.

How does mindfulness increase creativity? ›

First, mindfulness switches on divergent thinking. In other words, meditation opens your mind to new ideas. Second, mindfulness practice improves attention and makes it easier to register the novelty and usefulness of ideas.

Does mindfulness enhance creativity? ›

Mindfulness training's ability to reduce fear of judgment is conducive to creativity; as is its ability to improve working memory (Chiesa, Calati, & Serretti, 2011). Specifically, experienced meditators are better problem solvers and have better verbal creativity (Greenberg, Reiner, & Meiran, 2012).

Is art a form of mindfulness? ›

Creating art is a type of meditation, an active training of the mind that increase awareness and emphasizes acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment and relaxation of body and mind.

What are the 5 areas of mindfulness? ›

The analysis yielded five factors that appear to represent elements of mindfulness as it is currently conceptualized. The five facets are observing, describing, acting with awareness, non- judging of inner experience, and non-reactivity to inner experience.

What are the 5 senses of mindfulness? ›

The key to embodying mindfulness is to actually turn into a keen observer. Using the five senses — sight, sound, smell, taste and touch — can help you take in the world around you. They can be of great help in slowing down and living in the moment.

What are the core values of mindfulness? ›

They are a thread that runs through our lives. Examples of core values are compassion, generosity, honesty, friendship, loyalty, courage, tranquility, and curiosity.

What are the 2 types of mindfulness practices? ›

How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
  • Breathing meditation: A practice where you focus your attention on the sensations of breathing.
  • Body scan: A practice where you focus on each individual body part in turn, from head to toe.
11 Oct 2016

What are the two main components of mindfulness? ›

We can think of mindfulness as two parts: attention and curiosity. Attention means that we take time to focus our attention and awareness on physical sensations, thoughts that come up, or the environment around us.

What are 4 benefits of mindfulness? ›

Among its theorized benefits are self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and one's self with kindness, acceptance and compassion.

What are 3 benefits of art? ›

Relieving stress, training your brain and providing opportunities to connect and socialise with others are some of the many benefits of art that you may not know. There are many studies shown that creating art can benefit your mental health and improve brain elasticity.

What are the benefits of utilizing arts? ›

Art gives us the ability to express ourselves. Through that expression, we communicate by drawing on our own unique emotions, thoughts and experiences. When you see and study another's art, you're seeing the world through their eyes. When you create, you're letting the world see through yours.

What are the positive effects of art? ›

In general, studies in this review found that creative activity: has a positive impact on our sense of hope, self-worth, and well-being. improves our sense of connectedness and widens our social networks. decreases depression and anxiety and reduces stress.

What are the 5 main purposes of art? ›

What Are The 7 Purposes Of Art?
  • To provide an escape from reality.
  • To provide a sense of belonging and community.
  • To enable self-expression and self-awareness.
  • To provide a means for contemplation and reflection.
  • To provide a source of entertainment and enjoyment.

How does art relieve stress? ›

By creating art and doing something as simple as coloring, stress levels are seen to drop exponentially in patients. Helping the patient finally relax allows them to focus their mind on other things such as processing emotions, focusing on themselves, and working on emotional release.

What are the 10 importance of arts? ›

It helps to develop motor skills, eye-hand coordination and has a large impact on their social and emotional growth. It also enhances their cognitive development which can have a positive effect on math skills and other related subjects. Promote creativity in your child's life in as many ways as you can.

What is the purpose of art therapy? ›

Art therapy is an effective treatment for persons experiencing developmental, medical, educational, social or psychological impairment. A key goal in art therapy is to improve or restore the client's functioning and his/her sense of personal well being. Art therapists are trained in both art and therapy.

How does art therapy help anxiety and depression? ›

Depression and Art Therapy

Art therapy provides an individual who is feeling pressured or overwhelmed with an opportunity to slow down and explore the issues that are occurring in their life. It provides them with a way to manage their behavior, reduce anxiety, process feelings, and destress.

How does art heal trauma? ›

Art builds grounding and coping skills by photographing pleasant objects. It can help tell the story of trauma by creating a graphic timeline. Through methods like these, integrating art into therapy addresses a person's whole experience. This is critical with PTSD.

What are the two 2 major benefits of studying art explain each? ›

Learning through and about the arts enriches the experience of studying while at school as well as preparing students for life after school. Arts subjects encourage self-expression and creativity and can build confidence as well as a sense of individual identity.

How does art improve the quality of life? ›

Art gives us meaning and helps us understand our world. Scientific studies have proven that art appreciation improves our quality of life and makes us feel good. When we create art, we elevate our mood, we improve our ability to problem solve, and open our minds to new ideas.

What does art therapy do to the brain? ›

There is increasing evidence in rehabilitation medicine and the field of neuroscience that art enhances brain function by impacting brain wave patterns, emotions, and the nervous system. Art can also raise serotonin levels. These benefits don't just come from making art, they also occur by experiencing art.

Is art therapy good for mental illness? ›

Studies suggest that art therapy can be very valuable in treating issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and even some phobias. It is a great way to express your emotions without words, process complex feelings and find relief.

What part of the brain does art stimulate? ›

Studies have credited the production of visual art with increases in functional connectivity in the brain along with enhanced activation of the visual cortex.

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