According to a famous definition in Psychology Today, Art Therapy “involves the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, colouring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art”, but what is Art Therapy for ARTCOM project after 2 years of exploration and experience in this field?

The idea of considering Art Therapy as a tool for social inclusion arises from the research made by the partnership to find a way to support concretely young people from different disadvantage backgrounds in all countries involved in the project. Consequently, two continents, i.e.Africa and Europe, met and worked togetherto promote common values and visions, exchanging knowledge and experience under the umbrella of art-therapy. Following this ambitious aim, ARTCOM project developed a methodology and a set of activities and workshops to promote the social inclusion of youth , creating our own idea of art-therapy.

The origins

European Commissions’ Youth Strategy 2010-2018 and some other priorities defined in the EU Youth Report (2015) emphasized the importance of social inclusion as a tool for  supporting marginalised young people in increasing their opportunities in life and youth work in realizing its full potential. Increasing the social inclusion of young people and promoting more participation to democratic and civic life are priorities which could help to achieve the goals set in the Paris Declaration (2015) and in the resolution on the role of intercultural dialogue, cultural diversity and education in promoting EU fundamental values (2016),  such aspreventing marginalisation, radicalization, intolerance and racism. The role of education and youth workers are essential in enhancing social integration and in the promotion of common EU values among any disadvantaged young groups.

All the above goals and priorities could be supported by art-therapy, which is proven to be a tool for improving social well-being and key competences of marginalised youth. It can bring together and foster communication and understanding between people from different cultural and social backgrounds.

The journey

ARTCOM partnership started its journey researching the meaning of Art Therapy through a country-based overview that facilitated the identification of a common idea of arttherapy for the project. This long journey, in the course of which international experience and explorations took place, created the ARTCOM methodology.

Through the analysis of the topic, the project developed an innovative approach arising from the rich international and intercultural perspective of the partnership. This synergy element rose from the close cooperation across EU and African countries in creating new networks both locally and internationally, so as to leave a mark on individuals.

All project phases were essential to create significant milestones and learning experiences about art-therapy: fromhe kick-off meeting (Italy, February 2018),which promoted open discussions enriching the project knowledge of the partner organisations whitin the topic,  to the final meeting which summerized the successful results achieved after the two years of studies and research.

Through mobility actions, partnership capitalised on all previous experience concerning the testing methodology and tools in different contexts and with different targets, contributing to improve project local impact. To a certain extent, all partners familiarized with the management of mobility activities and international projects. The resulting ‘project product’ was realised to connect people and all the organizations, as a pure manifestation of joint efforts based on strong relations among collaborators.

Research’s results

Art Therapy is both a profession and a method  widely used by social workers in the field of human services aiming at enriching individuals, families and communities through an art-making creative process which includes psychological and psychotherautic methodologies.

It began in the mid-20th century in the European territory as a profession among psychologists  who wanted to improve the mental health of their patients. Since then it has developed considerablyin various different ways, integrating all types and forms of art as tools for its success.

Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and encourage societal and ecological change.

There are different methodologies and ways of working as art therapists globally. , There are differences in the way professionals work in African and European countries but also in the type of methodologies they use to assist participants.

Primarily, according to what people from many African cultures think , the expression of the body and mind plays an important role in the well-being, showing that art-therapy, or in general the use of art to improve the psychological state, is already integrated in African daily life, if compared to Europe. This of course has two differentimplications; the first being that the use of art is not perceived as something unusual and that it is easier for people to approach themselves to it; on the other hand, colonialism and globalisation have affected a lot the idea of what a profession should be like, resulting in Art Therapy not being recognized as a profession as prominent as that of a teacher or a doctor.

Moreover, differences can be found even within Europe:art therapist to be an art therapist in France you need to have a degree in Psychology,while in countries like Italy and Greece, Art Therapy educators, professional artists, etc. can work also as art therapist without having a specific degree. In recent years, Art Therapy has gained greater support and focus as a way to work with vulnerable groups, reaching a higher level of recognition among people.

Art therapists can work in diverse settings. Hospitals, Community centres, Schools etc. are some of the environments where their knowledge can be put into practice. Through different and integrated methods, Art Therapy tries to engage the mind, the body and the spirit in ways that can convey more meaning than the verbal expression.

Art Therapy . Kinaesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic languages involve alternative receptive and expressive channels of communication, which can bypass the limitations of verbal language. Visual and symbolic expression gives voice to indivduals’ personal experience and empowers individual, communal, and societal transformation.

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