Healing power of art speaks to artists, patients

April 11, 2023

As Lauren Over describes the creative process in making her art, the words start spilling out of her.

“Art is healing on multiple levels: It puts me in a flow state when I’m creating, similar to meditation, and it helps relieve stress and tension so I can rebalance,” said Over, a patient and artist who is participating in this year’s Venice Family Clinic Art Walk + Auction for the first time. “The art-making process can also bring things to the surface that have been buried – it can be freeing.”

It’s that sense of balance that permeates one of the artworks Over has donated to Venice Art Walk this year. Divine/Timing, 2020, is “an exploration of nature and place that considers how we fit into the natural world, and celebrates the beauty and mystery of nature,” she said. The piece includes references to the Pacific Ocean and the stars, integral elements of the Venice community.

Over said she chose this particular artwork to donate to the Clinic’s auction in part because it’s a piece she believes others will connect with. That kind of connection through expressive art is another reason why she believes art has healing properties – and also why Venice Family Clinic uses art therapy with some of its patients.

Externalizing the internal

“For some clients, especially ones who have had traumatic experiences, words either aren’t enough or just don’t come easily to them,” said Eileen Garcia, ATR-BC, a board-certified art therapist and a behavioral health therapist with the Clinic’s Common Ground program. To help her clients get to a place where they can better process the effects of the experiences they’ve had, Garcia engages in art therapy.

“Communicating through colors, shapes and symbols helps some people access their feelings more fully and digest information more completely,” she said.

Art therapy often focuses on the creative process as a way to help someone get to where they want to be in their life. For example, for people who have beliefs about themselves that block their ability to make progress in their lives, Garcia will ask them to write down those beliefs, then tear them up. The act engages more senses than talk therapy and encourages movement in the body, helping to empower that person so they can move forward, mentally and physically.

Many of Garcia’s clients have experienced complex trauma, and Garcia has seen first-hand how the process of creating something physical can help people heal. People who have experienced trauma can benefit from visualizing the life they need to thrive. So Garcia has them create dioramas, which serve as a physical reminder of their own visualization.

“They can put their creations up wherever they stay to give them a sense of safety and calm,” Garcia said. “My clients say these creations help them sleep and remind them to come back to the Clinic.”

Giving back through art

Artist Over is enthusiastic about supporting the Clinic through her art, especially if it inspires others to donate or to create something that’s meaningful to them.

“I’ve seen art transport people to more uplifting places, refocusing them from things that might be difficult or painful,” she said. “I could tell that art was a portal to another environment for them, that it allowed them to forget where they were.”

Over considers it an honor to be a part of Venice Art Walk and is excited to help raise money to support the Clinic’s vital work, which helps her and many other people who need it.

“Participating in this auction has another dimension of meaning,” Over said. “We artists are able to create things that people find value in and share that with causes we believe are so important, like the work of Venice Family Clinic.”