Art is all around us, and yet, only a few people take the time to stop and truly appreciate a great piece of art. When people are introduced to great art, it’s generally while they’re in school, even though that is happening less due to budget cuts being made to school arts programs. Challenges aside, people who do appreciate art may gain cultural benefits that even they are unaware of. In fact, art, including photography created by artists like Tierney Gearon, Senol Zorlu and Lee Towndrow, is now being used as a form of therapy.

Although art therapy has a similar focus as psychotherapy and group talk therapy, the approach of art therapy is different. In addition, a person doesn’t have to be mentally or emotionally imbalanced to benefit from participating in art therapy. Art Therapy reports that some benefits to be gained from using art to heal include:

· Self-exploration or increased opportunities to connect with one’s authentic self
· Chances to process challenging emotions and thoughts
· Greater understanding of inner desires and motivations
· Pain reduction
· Lowered anxiety levels
· Improved social skills

Both children and adults can benefit from art therapy. During the therapy, clients generally create their artwork, focusing their efforts on new designs, similar to how established artists whose works are featured at a fine art gallery do. Other forms of art therapy might require clients to visit a fine art gallery and verbalize their emotions and thoughts about one or more art pieces.

TIERNEY GEARON – Frame 01, from the Explosure Series, 2008

People who feel depressed, anxious or angry when they arrive at a fine art gallery can, after spending several minutes at the gallery, find their mood lifting, turning in a more positive direction. This might be possible, in part, as people closely examine photographs and images of people depicted in situations that they, art observers, are currently struggling with. As shared in Art Therapy, “By expressing yourself through art, an art therapist can help you see things about yourself that you otherwise may not have comprehended.”

The article continues, “Don’t be surprised if the effects of art therapy lead to a general sense of relief and overall better mental health. Again, it’s therapy, but with a completely different ingredient than most people are used to, art.”

Attend a few structured art therapy sessions and people can learn how to explore parts of themselves they previously turned a blind eye to or ignored. They could discover why they feel the way they do about certain people, life events and experiences. They might also learn how to release painful memories so they can lead fuller lives.

Yes. Each of these (and more) benefits are derived from the work of artists like Tierney Gearon, Senol Zorlu, Roger Ballen, Lillian Bassman, Willy Ronis and Richard Renaldi. Perhaps it’s the effort, the passion and the laser focus that great artists put into their work that translates to viewers, that helps people to heal.

Furthermore, and as quiet as it’s kept, it might be for its benefits that Tierney Gearon, Senol Zorlu, Holly Andres, Sid Avery and other artists take their tools and create artwork to begin with. Historically artists have been known to perceive the world differently than other people, something that has, at times, caused artists to withdrawal from the masses. For these and a myriad of other reasons, it’s a wonderful happening when artists have their work featured at a fine art gallery, connecting artists and art lovers in rewarding ways.

Rhonda Campbell is an East Coast journalist who loves offering tips and advice about fine art and commercial art. Her work has been published in national periodicals like USA Today, Yahoo! Education and The Pittsburgh Quarterly.