Art began to creep into my social media feed not long after isolation hit: parents sharing their children’s sketches or their own personal doodles. Some shared bits of writing, or re-created children’s book covers with common household objects. Others made and shared original memes inspired by current events, or what a drag it is to be stuck indoors, and almost all of it came from people who would not otherwise consider themselves artists.
Asked why they’re creating and sharing art in a stressful time like the COVID-19 outbreak, most would say they’re just staving off boredom. Turns out they’re doing a lot more than that, according to Grace Fletcher, a Eugene-based licensed art therapist and licensed professional counselor.
“They’ve done studies. To quiet the brain, you need to access a different part of the brain,” Fletcher says, and creating art does just that.
Accessing the creative, nonverbal part of the brain, she continues, allows more subconscious material to come forward. She adds: “Then when we talk about it we bring that other part — our verbal part, our logical part — back online.”
A licensed professional counselor and licensed art therapist (a brand-new type license in Oregon as of 2019), Fletcher has moved all her clients online post-coronavirus, and even picked up one client interested in managing virus-related anxiety.
Working with art therapy clients who are struggling with anxiety in a formal session, Fletcher might have them try watercolors, or if they have anger challenges, they might try ripping paper or creating an angry sculpture. She also gives her clients creative homework.
“The art gets used in two ways,” she says. “It’s used as the therapy itself,” but more than anything, the art gets used to explore what’s going on visually rather than nonverbally, which some people prefer. “Sometimes I’ll ask people to make an image of what their anxiety feels like, or how their depression feels,” she says. “That enables them to look at what’s going on differently than just talking about it.”
No prior experience is necessary, Fletcher says. “Art therapy is a way of working with things a little differently. Some people appreciate the chance to express themselves creatively and not verbally. I feel like everybody has artistic ability.”
For more information about Fletcher’s services, go to ArtWithGraceCounseling.com.