Neuroscience and Healing Brushes

–  Unraveling the Neurological Impact of Art Therapy

Interviewer: Today, we delve into the world of art therapy and therapeutic arts with our expert guest artist and therapeutic art coach Ance Gricmane.

Could you please introduce yourself and share your background in the field?

Expert: Thank you for having me. I’m Ance Gricmane, a licensed coach and professional artist with a background in psychology and medical art therapy, specializing in the therapeutic applications of art.

Interviewer: Great to have you. Let's start with the basics. What is art therapy, and how does it differ from therapeutic arts?


: In Europe these two fields are separated to make it clear –  Art therapy is a mental health profession that utilizes the creative process of art-making to improve and enhance the mental and emotional well-being of individuals and can be used to treat people with diagnosis like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) etc. It involves a professional art therapist facilitating the artistic process to help clients.

art therapy with Ance Gricmane

On the other hand, therapeutic arts encompass a broader spectrum of creative and expressive activities designed for therapeutic purposes. This may include activities not necessarily guided by a licensed therapist. While art therapy is a specific, regulated practice, therapeutic arts refer to a wider array of creative endeavors used for therapeutic benefits –  I am using it to work in a corporate environment.

Interviewer: How does the art therapy process interact with the brain on a neurological level?

Expert: Art making engages various regions of the brain, particularly those associated with creativity, emotions, and problem-solving. When individuals create art, it stimulates the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, enhancing mood and pleasure. Moreover, the process of self-expression through art can activate the brain’s reward system, promoting a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. And when it is done in a team, can you imagine – team members have never seen each other in this creative state, they start to collaborate and work with each other in a more empathetic way (empathy – one of the soft skills).

Interviewer: How does the science behind art therapy contribute to overall well-being?

Expert: Engaging in therapeutic arts has been linked to numerous cognitive, emotional, and physiological benefits. Studies have shown that participating in creative activities can reduce stress, lower cortisol levels, and improve immune function. It also fosters neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself, which is crucial for adaptability and resilience.

art therapy on the workshop lead by Ance Gricmane

Interviewer: In an era dominated by technology and digital experiences, why is it important to emphasize the value of real, traditional art for therapeutic purposes?

Expert: Traditional art holds a unique value as a tangible, sensory experience. The physical act of creating or engaging with traditional art provides a sensory-rich environment, stimulating various senses and enhancing the therapeutic process. In contrast to digital experiences, traditional art offers a hands-on, authentic connection that is essential for the holistic well-being of individuals.

Laurence, E. (2023) writing in Forbes Health & Mind is actualizing art therapy as a method that helps sustain mental well – being, let’s be aware that we are living in very turbulent times and each of us wants to feel emotional tolerance towards him/herself.

Interviewer: How can art therapy methods be effectively incorporated into a corporate environment for team building?

Expert: Therapeutic art methods offer a unique and impactful approach to corporate team building. One effective method involves collaborative art projects, where team members work together to create a piece of art. This fosters communication, cooperation, and a sense of shared achievement, promoting a more cohesive team dynamic. I used to work with methods made by Ph.D. and art therapist world wide known Cathy Malchiodi. Who has worked in the field more than 30 years and even with the military personnel. Taking these tested methods through “Emotion lab” we adapt them for each client according to the set goal.

Interviewer: Can you elaborate on how art therapy contribute to enhancing communication and collaboration among team members?

Expert: Certainly. Art-based activities encourage individuals to express themselves in a non-verbal manner, breaking down communication barriers. Collaborative projects require teams to communicate, share ideas, and find common ground. This not only enhances teamwork but also promotes active listening (soft skill) and a deeper understanding of each team member’s strengths and perspectives.

 If we do not understand ourselves and our emotions in specific situations how can we understand others – our team mates? Remember the plain story – put the air mask first for yourself and then help others.

Interviewer: In a time where remote work is increasingly common, how can therapeutic art methods be adapted for virtual team building?

Expert: Virtual team building through therapeutic art methods is entirely possible. Utilizing digital platforms for collaborative art projects, virtual painting sessions, or even creating a shared digital mural can maintain a sense of connection among remote team members. The key is to facilitate engagement and interaction despite physical distance

Interviewer: What measurable benefits can organizations expect to see after implementing art therapy methods for team building?

Expert: Measurable benefits may include improved team communication, increased creativity, reduced stress levels, and enhanced problem-solving skills, develop emotional intelligence  and soft skill based team collaboration. Organizations can track these outcomes through employee surveys, productivity metrics, and monitoring overall team dynamics to assess the tangible impact of therapeutic art initiatives.

Interviewer: Thank you for providing insights into the application of therapeutic art methods in a corporate context. It's evident that these methods hold significant potential for enhancing team dynamics and overall workplace well-being.

Expert: My pleasure. Integrating therapeutic art into team building not only enriches the corporate environment but also nurtures a more resilient and collaborative workforce.

art therapy

Interviewer: Let's explore the importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence in the corporate environment. First, why are these skills crucial for success in the workplace?

Expert: Soft skills and emotional intelligence are paramount in the corporate setting because they contribute to effective and sustainable work culture, communication, collaboration, and overall team dynamics. In today’s interconnected and fast-paced business world, the ability to navigate relationships, understand colleagues’ perspectives, and adapt to diverse working styles is fundamental for success.

Interviewer: How can art therapy play a role in enhancing soft skills and emotional intelligence within a corporate context?

Expert: Therapeutic arts provide a unique avenue for developing soft skills and emotional intelligence. Engaging in creative activities fosters self-awareness, allowing individuals to recognize and understand their own emotions. Moreover, collaborative art projects encourage empathy and effective communication as team members work together to express themselves visually. This process contributes directly to the development of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.

Interviewer: Can you provide examples of specific therapeutic art exercises that target the enhancement of soft skills and emotional intelligence in a corporate setting?

Expert: I will give you as an example one of my favorite first jobs I am doing when meeting with corporate teams. Everybody individually is drawing their self portraits with their eyes closed. Then they are asked to recognize emotions or characteristics they see in the drawing….more 2 steps taken and during this process team boosts – Communication and CollaborTrust Buildination, Trust, Creativity and Problem-Solving, Empathy Development: Recognizing emotions in the final portraits promotes empathy within the team. Team members gain a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives, fostering an environment where emotional intelligence is valued.

 Fun and Stress Reduction and Encourages Risk-Taking and teaches to recognise emotions and reflect. One of the best outcomes – Boosts Team Morale and builds Long-lasting Memories.

Interviewer: How do soft skills and emotional intelligence impact leadership effectiveness within organizations?

Expert: Leadership effectiveness is closely tied to soft skills and emotional intelligence. Leaders who possess strong interpersonal skills can build trust, foster a positive work culture, and effectively manage conflicts. Emotional intelligence allows leaders to understand and respond to the emotions of their team members, leading to better decision-making and overall team satisfaction.

Interviewer: In a world increasingly influenced by technology, why should organizations prioritize the development of soft skills and emotional intelligence?

Expert: While technology is essential, the human element remains irreplaceable. Soft skills and emotional intelligence distinguish individuals and teams in a competitive landscape. As automation takes care of routine tasks, the ability to navigate complex human interactions becomes even more critical. Investing in these skills ensures that organizations can adapt, innovate, and maintain a positive work environment.

Interviewer: How can organizations integrate art therapy into their training programs to specifically target the development of soft skills and emotional intelligence?

Expert: Integrating therapeutic arts into training programs can involve workshops or team-building sessions centered around creative expression. Activities like collaborative art projects, storytelling through visual media, or even guided meditation with artistic elements can provide a holistic approach to developing both soft skills and emotional intelligence.

Interviewer: What measurable benefits can organizations expect to see when employees enhance their soft skills and emotional intelligence through therapeutic arts?

Expert: Measurable benefits may include improved team communication, reduced conflicts, increased employee satisfaction, and higher levels of creativity and innovation. Organizations can track these outcomes through employee feedback, performance metrics, and overall team dynamics to assess the tangible impact of incorporating therapeutic arts into skill development initiatives.

Interviewer: Thank you for shedding light on the intersection of art therapy, soft skills, and emotional intelligence in the corporate environment. It's clear that these elements are integral to fostering a positive and productive workplace.

Expert: My pleasure. Integrating therapeutic arts offers a dynamic and engaging approach to developing essential skills that contribute to the overall success and well-being of individuals and organizations alike. Even Harvard Business Review just a month ago published an article of “3 ways to Build an Organizational Culture That Supports Mental Health” by Clay Routledge emphasizing that employers should pay attention to the organization’s culture instead of just talking about individual mental health development. “Emotion lab” is helping employers to handle this new challenge – building the safe and sustainable work culture.

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  • Laurence, E. (2023) What Is Art Therapy? Types, Benefits And More. Forbes. 
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