What constitutes valid therapy? It depends on who you ask. Some will say that if a treatment works, it is valid. This is why there might be those who regret the unemployment of Tribal Shamen or magic amulet manufacturers - they were associated with success just often enough to stay in business.

Art makes many people feel better, as does music or Boggle, but is it valid therapy or just a happy coincidence?

Elizaberta López Pérez, a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Doctor in Painting at the University of Granada, has carried out a study on the use of art therapy for the treatment of acute mentally ill people. Her work, based on psychoanalysis principles, starts with a basic premise: A work of art is a sign formed as a vital trace and its essential material is the humanity of the human being who leaves his memory in the world.

Art therapy (or therapy through art), started in the middle of the 20th century and uses visual arts for therapeutic purposes. It is based on the idea that visual representations, objectified through plastic material, contribute to the construction of a meaning of the psychic conflicts, and can help with its resolution. Plastic representation would be, from this point of view, a process for thought construction.

In order to carry out her research work, López Pérez worked for more than one year with 20 acute mental patients from the Therapeutic Community of the Northern Area of the Virgen de las Nieves Hospital of Granada. Participants in these sessions took part in them voluntarily two days a week and they adapted paintings of artists such as Modigliani, Munch or Van Gogh, offering their own vision.

López Pérez highlights the liberating nature of art for these patients, who project their inner world and their repressed desires through their paintings. She says this allows them to deal with their fears and desires, which are manifested during the artistic process, and it is possible to give them life or to destroy them.

The peculiar works of art carried out in this art therapy workshop gave rise to an exhibition called The fugitive memory, organized by the Vice-Rectorate of Extramural Studies of the UGR held in the Corrala de Santiago in 2003.