Art Therapy in Psychiatric Hospitals: Circle of Recovery and Inner Harmony

In search of a balance between mind and spirit, Entuziart Association together with INDIEBOX through the MND MOVING project, offers creative therapies as complementary methods to conventional psychiatric treatment.

At the heart of the ART-TERAPEUTIC approach is a philosophical principle translated into action: “Phronetik® Art-Therapy shows us a path on which the individual no longer faces himself but composes himself, finds himself and lives in the here and now, giving expression to his own being and realizing his own nature” (Irmgard Maria Starke , founder of the Phronetik® method). Through this prism, patients from the Voila psychiatric hospital in Câmpina and the Eftimie Diamandescu hospital in Balaceanca were invited to reconnect with their purest essence.

Under the tutelage of an art therapist specialising in Jungian psychotherapy, the art therapy workshops aimed to combine techniques from both fields to provide participants with a complex and deeply personalised experience. Respecting the importance of the psychotherapy setting, the workshops have been configured to ensure the safety and comfort of participants – a key factor in facilitating an environment where patients can freely explore and express themselves without fear of judgment.

In a warm and welcoming environment, participants sat around an oval or round table, large enough to give them individual space but also to facilitate a sense of continuity and collective belonging. They were encouraged to let their imaginations run wild. When some of them found it difficult to get started, it was suggested that they think of a pleasant memory or a landscape in nature that sparked their joy. These suggestions often became the creative spark needed to begin the artistic process.

Art therapy workshops are not only a way to alleviate symptoms but also a means to empower individuals to build a better future beyond the hospital walls.

Among patients, experiences varied: some participating weekly due to longer hospital stays, while others experienced the magic of art therapy only once. Each workshop became a living diary page, witness to the inner processes of those present.

“I loved being with the group,” shares one patient, highlighting the sense of community that transcends individual barriers. “I’ve seen others go through what I went through,” says another, finding solace and solidarity in shared experiences. These comments, along with heartfelt thanks – “I felt listened to and thank you from the bottom of my heart” – reflect the profound and personal impact of art therapy.

“I want to be able to come even when I get out of the hospital,” says one participant, an echo of the desire to continue on the path of healing through art, even outside the walls of the institution. This aspiration resonates with the principles of therapy, where the goal is not only to alleviate symptoms but also to empower the patient to build a better future.

The story of one patient who participated in such a workshop is emblematic of the transformative power of art therapy. Initially reluctant, the woman feared her lack of talent would prevent her from creating anything of value. Art Therapist guided her to focus on choosing a single material that appealed to her, and so, with a green and a brown pastel, she began drawing simple shapes on paper. Initially hesitant, but gradually becoming more engaged, the patient began to reveal her inhibited feelings with growing confidence as the outline of a circle appeared on her paper, An apple began to take shape, one ripe only on one side – a metaphor for her own life and unseen struggles, an apple too green, too raw on the side left all its life in the shade and overripe on the side exposed only to the sun, an apple that found no place in the world and rotted in the carelessness of those around it.

Art therapist shares : “As we explored together the story of the symbol in the drawing, the patient exclaimed with surprise “this apple is really me”, the apple becoming a representation of her life, the care relationship she received, an illustration of neglect and unfulfilled desire to be recognized and cared for properly.”

This revelation was a turning point, bringing tears of realization but also a spark of hope. “This apple, though fallen on the ground and unevenly ripened, can still be put in the sunlight to ripen on the green side and still find its way,” says the psychotherapist, “just as our patients, regardless of their past, can still find a path to healing and fulfillment.”

Exploring the drawn symbol brought hope to her eyes because it was a way of connecting with an unexplored pain, the pain of experiencing acute meaninglessness. Only by touching pain can we find hope for a new future.

“Simply drawing this shape, the circle, can bring peace and emotional containment,” says the art therapist. The symbol of the circle is a central element in Carl Gustav Jung’s work. He observed that his patients often spontaneously resorted to creating circular images during periods of emotional confusion or psychosis. Such drawings represented, in his view, the unconscious mind’s attempt to self-regulate and restore a psychic balance, emphasising the natural tendency of the human psyche towards self-healing and organisation (Volume 9 of the Collected Works of C.G. Jung, “Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious”).

Thus, at the intersection of art and psychotherapy, art therapy workshops open doors to a world where patients can express themselves, heal and ultimately dream of a life beyond diagnosis and treatment. Through these art therapy sessions, patients not only connect with their own creativity, but also with those around them, strengthening the foundation of a healing and supportive community. Through the use of colour, patients in psychiatric hospitals are taken on a journey of self-discovery and self-expression that transcends words and acts directly on the realm of emotions and self-awareness. This humanistic and holistic approach is a testament to the art’s endless capacity to heal and transform lives.

Thus, these art therapy workshops, orchestrated by the EntuziART Association, through art therapist Oana Dorneanu, open the way to a deep inner dialogue and offer a light of hope, inviting patients to dream of a life beyond current limits, surrounded by the beauty and richness of authentic human experiences.

This material was written with the support and collaboration of the EntuziART Association and the therapists involved in the mind-moving project.

mind-moving is a project initiated and organized by Indie Box, in partnership with NOPA – Norwegian Society of Composers and Lyricists, Entuziart Association and Profeti ART SRL.

Implementation partners: Voila Hospital from Câmpina, “Eftimie Diamandescu” Hospital from Bălăceanca, Residence9.

mind-moving is a project financed by the SEE Grants 2014-2021 within the RO-CULTURE Program. The project has a non-refundable value of 969,072 lei (197,012.33 euros) and runs for a period of 15 months.


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