Healing through art

By Natalia PiknaMisch Pautsch

Can art heal? Arts therapy is a discipline that is slowly growing in demand across Europe. Today, in Luxembourg, there is still a long path to go towards its full recognition. What does this form of therapy offer and what makes it so special?

Arts therapies are therapies that use any sort of "creative media as a means of expression and communication within a therapeutic relationship". The term arts therapies includes therapy through visual arts, music, dance and theatre. They can be called "pre-linguistic" or "non-verbal" therapies since most of them rely on other forms of communication and therapy than language, except of course, for theatre therapy. These forms of therapies have developed professionally throughout the 20th century and today, they have become better understood as well as regulated. The Association Luxembourgeoise des Art-thérapeutes Diplômés asbl (ALAtD) defines the profession on their website as such; "arts therapists are not psychotherapists who use artistic means, but therapists who use the psychotherapeutic potential of artistic means". Today, a person can obtain a university degree directly in the discipline of art therapy at several European universities. They can then work in institutions, associations, hospitals, or even open private practices.

The ALAtD is a professional association which was founded in 2008 and is an umbrella organisation for art therapists of different disciplines. Together with the GML (Gesellschaft fir Musiktherapie zu Lëtzebuerg) they collaborated to offer an evening of workshops to discover these disciplines during mental health week (10–14 October). The two associations are also in the process of actively joining forces and creating a single association with one representative voice. The Lëtzebuerger Journal participated in the event to learn more about art therapy in Luxembourg, talked with the therapists as well as attendees and even participated in some of the workshops.

Letting go through art

The event aimed to offer easily accessible activities as Isabelle Toussaint-Dartevelle tells us, to showcase the different types of art therapy. For example, various emotions were projected onto the screen (anger, sadness, anxiety, relaxation, fear, joy) as participants were encouraged to express these with the help of musical instruments. "To express feelings through art therapy, transpose them into music. So that people can see what it's like to let go of emotional luggage, during this mental health week", she explains. Isabelle Toussaint-Dartevelle is a music therapist with years of experience. She used to work for the formerly called “Service de l’Education différenciée” (now replaced by the Centre pour enfants et jeunes présentant un trouble du spectre de l’autisme, CTSA) and has been working for the project Mateneen for the past six years. The project, funded by the Oeuvre Nationale de Secours Grande Duchesse Charlotte and in collaboration with the Luxembourgish Red Cross, brings the benefits of musical therapy to asylum seekers.

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