Stigmas surrounding therapy are slowly chipping away, especially when a global mental health crisis fuelled by COVID-19 is being dubbed the second pandemic. Now, alternative therapies have landed on the islands, giving people a space to be creative, heal and find themselves at the intersect of art and therapy.
Lovin Malta spoke to one of the few practitioners of the field in Malta – art therapist Jeannette Fiott, who believes art is a powerful tool for mental health.
“I’ve been painting since I was three years old, so art has always held a huge place in my life and how I relate to the world and myself. Academically, I was drawn to psychology. Eight years ago I discovered that the combination is actually an established profession and the rest was history,” Fiott explained.
Today, Fiott is a qualified and warranted therapist using art practices to help her clients find themselves.
“Essentially, art therapy combines art, psychology and psychotherapy, but its way more than that. It is a means of using a creative process, whether it’s painting, pottery or drawing to heal, hone coping mechanisms, and gain a sense of emotional understanding. People get to know themselves better, they’re able to express themselves beyond the limits of words.”
Whether it’s in one-to-one sessions or group classes, Fiott sees people from the age of four, elderly people and everyone in between.
“Some come to develop self-confidence, some want better ways to deal with anxiety or relationship conflicts. Others bring their children. It truly offers something for anyone who is drawn to it,” she added.
Children feel more open to the process, Fiott continued, while adults are hesitant because they think they can’t draw.
“I always say the same thing – you don’t need to be a professional to draw, it’s about letting go and being creative. It’s allowing your creation to help you communicate,” Fiott said.
In other words, Fiott uses psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy with the addition of the art image.
“We communicate through art therapy. Sometimes words don’t work so we use paints and through that unconscious messages emerge. They help us understand what is really needed to be understood.”
A lot of emotions come out of these sessions, the art therapist continued. In the past year, there’s been a recurring feeling of sadness and anxiety because of the pandemic.
“I do prescribe art to get out anger, anxiety, but that doesn’t mean don’t use the time to express joy.”
Fiott believes the benefits of being creative speak for themselves – you’re able to view issues in a completely different way or make space to explore any emotion, or see a difficult situation in a different light.
“A personal example – when COVID-19 hit, I was devastated. I could never have thought of hosting group sessions without my studio. Now, being able to meet people online is fantastic. Thinking outside of the box helped me overcome my personal and professional challenges.”
With more people facing mental health issues, art therapy can help people find coping methods, reduce stress and heal.
“I suppose I am biased, but I believe this kind of therapy shouldn’t be downplayed. It can play a huge role in a national strategy alongside other efforts to better mental health in Malta,” Fiott finished.
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