When people talk about spiritual, many of us connect “spiritual” to “religious” but it is not always or necessarily true. For example, one can go to church for religious purpose but does not carry any faith. For indigenous people, they can be spiritual by closely connecting to nature or land-based activities, but do not necessarily believe in any religions.
Art therapy is a type of therapy that can help clients achieve self-actualization, a process similar to spiritual connection by fully connecting the body and mind to achieve healing.
I listen to their interpretations empathically and show unconditional positive regard by not judging.
Oneness or Wholeness
Psychologically, art-making is a means to explore the unconscious in art therapy (Czamanski-Cohen & Weihs, 2016). Through this therapeutic approach, individuals can use art to express themselves and increase self-awareness of that their stressors are, and hopefully, the therapists can co-construct the ways to help them transform into a better mental state.
There is a model called the Expressive Therapies Continuum (ETC) that assesses clients’ relationships with their chosen art materials and the ways they express their arts (Gerami, 2021). There are four complementary developmental levels in ETC: Kinaestheric/Sensory, Perceptual/Affective, Cognitive/Symbolic, and Creative levels.
Here, I emphasize on the highest level, the creative level, because it is more like the level of “oneness” or “wholeness”. If an individual can fully feel relaxed and joyful throughout the art-making process, then it is believed that a holistic therapeutic progress has been achieved.
Individual Interpretation of Spiritual Connection
Just like how we show respect to individuals’ freedom of religion, spiritual connection can have different interpretations based on individuals’ reactions to their art-making processes in art therapy.
We are all different as we hold different cultural and societal backgrounds, so as a therapist, I pay extra attention by having both spiritual and cultural awareness to my clients. I listen to their interpretations empathically and show unconditional positive regard by not judging. This is a safe process for all parties to be able to observe any spiritual developments and interpersonal connections.
Czamanski-Cohen, J., & Weihs, K. L. (2016). The bodymind model: A platform for studying the mechanisms of change induced by art therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 51, 63–71.
Gerami, M. (2021). The effects of group art therapy on reducing psychological stress and improving the quality of life in Iranian newcomer children. Canadian Journal of Art Therapy, 34(1), 8–17.