Therapy Through Art

Therapy Through Art

Art therapy helps patients with schizophrenia, as well as many other mental illnesses, interpret emotions, feelings, and deal with the numerous side effects of medication. There are many different forms of art therapy such as writing, painting, drawing, or sculpting.

The White Swan Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides knowledge regarding mental health services, states that art therapy allows patients to focus on their creative pieces and reduce negative symptoms, which include affective flattening, alogia, or avolition. According to Gina Garippo, art therapy can reduce social and emotional withdrawal and allow for family and friends to understand schizophrenia better. While this method of therapy is usually under the guidance of a therapist, there are some artists that use their experiences with schizophrenia to explore their passion and pour these instances from the past into art as a way of coping.

Antonin Artaud was an artist that found therapy in his work. Born in Marseille, France in 1896, he worked as an actor, poet, and costume designer, mostly well-known for revolutionizing drama with his idea of “Theater of Cruelty.” The “Theater of Cruelty” focuses on “mysterious, primal expressions of sound, movement, and light” (Biography, 2014). This idea was later embraced to be a significant contribution to 20th-century theater. Antonin Artaud was one of few people with schizophrenia who used art as a gateway to exhibit his negative experiences. According to Louis Sass, not only did Artaud delve into the cathartic experience of art, but he also used his writings as a means to prevail over the difficulties of his symptoms of schizophrenia.

Around the age of five, Artaud found himself face to face with a near-death experience; he was diagnosed with meningitis. The repercussions of this life-threatening moment followed him for the remainder of his life. He was said to have suffered from neuralgia, a stabbing pain due to a damaged or irritated nerve, as well as neurasthenia. He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent nine years of his life in various mental institutions. It was when Antonin was treated with electroshock, that he took up an interest in drawing and writing.

Artaud’s poem, Le Visage Humain, which in English translates to “The Human Face”, describes a man losing his face. The poem almost acts like a window to Artaud’s mind, allowing readers to visualize his perspective on his illness, his feelings, and most significantly, his strive to grasp on to the few strands of reality he has left. Interestingly enough, Artaud references Van Gogh in this poem, who is also thought to have had schizophrenia.

Overall, using art to cope with the symptoms of any mental illness may be beneficial to the patient. In many of the studies done testing the effectiveness of art therapy, researchers found a significant decrease in psychological symptoms in treatment groups as well as depression. Garippo states that it helps those with schizophrenia because, often, patients will resist standard treatment due to lack of interest. This approach allows patients to work through symptoms in a non-confrontational way so they are less likely to resist treatment.


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Sass, L. A. (2003). “Negative Symptoms”, Schizophrenia, and the Self. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 3, 165-165. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from

Schouten, K. A., Niet, G. J., Knipscheer, J. W., Kleber, R. J., & Hutschemaekers, G. J. (2014). The Effectiveness of Art Therapy in the Treatment of Traumatized Adults. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 16(2), 220-228. doi:10.1177/1524838014555032

White Swan Foundation. (n.d.). Art Therapy For Treatment Of Schizophrenia | White Swan Foundation. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from

Victoria Radesco

My passion for psychology began when I was home with a fever in middle school and I spent my day off researching mental illnesses and what in the brain causes it. Whenever I had an opportunity, I would choose psychology as a topic for all my school assignments. For example, I did my Biology project in 10th grade on the symptoms and risk factors of Schizophrenia and I wrote a research paper on how music affects the brain. As a psychology major, I am constantly looking for courses that have to do with mental illnesses and which parts of the brain cause it. After taking Biopsychology last semester, I am currently taking Abnormal and Clinical Psychology and I’m able to learn about each mental illness more in depth. This course can be very beneficial to everyone because I believe the way to help destigmatize mental illnesses is to educate those who encourage the stigma. You can probably either find me at the mall feeding my shopping addiction or in bed watching Netflix.

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