ONE of my daughter’s dear friends was recently admitted to hospital with a serious eating disorder.

Bella is hoping to visit her friend soon, and wondered what to take her – magazines? definitely not. Books? yes, but choose carefully. Paper and pens? yes, definitely.

Not everyone can claim to be an artist – not that many would like to be one – but everyone can scribble.

Who hasn’t doodled while hanging on the phone for an answer from a wretched call centre?

And when you get the inevitable “sorry about that” answer, whose doodlings haven’t got more strident?

You might not call it art, but those anguished scratchings with a biro can be very therapeutic to the pen wielder.

Art as therapy is becoming increasingly mainstream. There are two strands to it: the catharsis of the creative act of making art - splashing paint about, getting your hands stuck in a lump of clay, taking photographs, whatever - and the analysis of what is created.

When words fail to do the job, art can help: art therapist Gretchen Miller writes that ‘Art expression is a powerful way to safely contain and create separation from the terrifying experience of trauma… (it) safely gives voice to and makes a survivor’s experience of emotions, thoughts and memories visible when words are insufficient’.

Many of us who call ourselves artists would say that much of what we create is made as therapy - artists are, after all, a notoriously neurotic lot. As professional makers, we often have an outlet for our outpourings: shops, galleries, collectors.

Not everyone who has created art to help solve their problems necessarily wants to show their work – it can be intensely private – but many do, and these outlets that the professionals use are not necessarily available for the amateurs.

This is where Open Studios events come into their own: all types of makers - professional, amateur, those seeking to make their fortune and those seeking to heal themselves - can take part.

The Salisbury Art Trail took place this year, while the Wylye Valley Art Trail is next May, with applications open until late November.

There is no selection, no one to tell you your art isn’t suitable, or good enough; if you live, work or are connected to South and West Wiltshire, you can take part.

And when someone you don’t know comes and tells you they like what you’ve made – that’s pretty good therapy.

By Rose Eva