conscious and unconscious processes

Young patient with brain tumor explores doing and undoing through clay

Young patient with brain tumor explores doing and undoing through clay

The field of Neuroscience is contributing to our understanding of how creativity impacts the brain.  Science is just beginning to understand the functioning of the human brain. Recent studies suggest that while there is some truth to the distinction of left and right brain processes, the act of creativity is not easily explained by crediting the right brain alone.  There are certain functions of the right brain that aid creativity, spontaneity, intuition and living in the present moment.    The moments in your life when you forget about time, when you are not worrying about past or future concerns, when you enjoy the immediate sensations around you, you are in a "state of flow."  Art making is one way of experiencing this flow state.

Although you don't need to know anything about neural anatomy, brain plasticity, flight-fight responses and the rest in order to take advantage of therapy, knowing how the mind-body-brain works can reduce the mystery (and the fear) out of going to therapy.

Regions of the Brain Positively Affected by Mindfulness-based Art Therapy

  • Hippocampus – regulates new memory organization and storage, long-term memory indexing, connecting emotional responses to the senses, spatial concepts and navigation

  • Left insula – controls cognitive function, empathy, regulates blood pressure and heart rhythm, aids in motor control and affects perception of pain

  • Amygdala – manages fear and anger responses, survival emotions, what and where memories are stored, regulation of hormone secretions and arousal

The right brain is central for therapy because it regulates all the crucial conditions for establishing a successful therapeutic relationship: attunement, empathy, sense of safety, and unconscious communication and processing.  It gives us that sense of being connected to one another.  Since the right brain is in charge of processing emotion and of our sense of identity, it has a huge influence on how we feel about ourselves and how we manage our relationships.  It is often those aspects that we're trying to change through psychotherapy.  These same areas of the brain are activated in the creation of art.