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Do-It-Yourself Art Therapy Activities

Updated on March 18, 2011


Art therapy has many benefits. The creative process can help the troubled individual focus energy on creating instead of feeling victimized. It’s empowering. Self-expression teaches a positive way to cope with negative thoughts and feelings that can be overwhelming.

Posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and many other psychiatric conditions have been treated with art therapy. Though art therapy is helpful in overcoming symptoms, reducing tension, and dealing with trauma, art therapy is typically used in combination with other therapeutic treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoactive medication.

Due to a lack of insurance coverage, many treatment programs for mental illness have abandoned art therapy. Art therapists have been replaced with activities staff. Though the activities can include some art therapy exercises, the activities often include crafts, games, walks, and other non-art therapy activities.

As a survivor of trauma and someone with PTSD and depression, I recognize how beneficial creating is for me. I also live in an area where art therapy is extinct. Therefore, I have created my own art therapy.

Art therapy does not need to have a structured form. I’ve heard people say that they can’t use art as part of their healing process, because they can’t draw. I propose that do-it-yourself art therapy can be a helpful tool for almost everyone.

Any creative activity is art therapy in my opinion. If a person has a negative opinion of drawing and is critical of their drawing skills, maybe drawing isn’t the best activity for them. But, can they paint or even fingerpaint to music? Do they like flower arranging, jewelry making, or creating new recipes when they cook? Do they like scrapbooking, woodworking, or crafts? What about taking pictures or writing poetry? Creative activities come in many forms.

Do-it-yourself art therapy is about finding creative activities that help the person express their feelings and cope with the symptoms of the mental illness. People may wonder how some of the suggested activities can possibly be considered art therapy.

If nothing else, these activities involve the creative use of the hands which gives the mind a break from depression, anxiety, and difficult thought processes that can be overwhelming. It forces the individual’s attention from the negativity in their minds that is caused by the illness.

Artistic activity of any kind is a healthy coping skill for stress, depression, and anxiety. I completely attribute my ability to stop cutting to artistic activities. It’s one thing to try to use positive self-talk and cognitive therapeutic techniques to stop cutting. It’s another thing to replace the razor with a paintbrush. In addition to cutting, artistic activities can be used to replace other unhealthy coping skills. Replacing an unhealthy activity with a healthy one is easier than just trying to stop the unhealthy behavior without a replacement activity.

I often use abstract expressionism as art therapy. Please see my hub called Jonas Gerard, Abstract Expressionism, and DIY Art Therapy.

If you use creative activities to cope with stress or symptoms of mental illness, I would love to hear about your experiences.


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    • profile image

      Jen 3 years ago

      It is the best way to utilize your energy on the right way

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you for this. As a drama teacher and therapist I work alongside art and painting therapists to create packages for young adults with all kinds of disorders, from autism to fragile X syndrome. It's a wondrous way of helping a young person find focus and creativity away from the mundane everyday activities they often become entrenched in.

      To witness free expression - through art, drama or music - is therapy in itself you could argue.

      I'll vote for this hub.

    • Chris Achilleos profile image

      Chris Achilleos 6 years ago

      Great hub Sheila :) As a child and teenager I found that I could express my emotions through the arts. Very interesting subject. Voted up!

    • profile image

      Mike OT 7 years ago

      Creative activities are just one tool that Occupational Therapists may use during interventions. It is often used in Group Therapy at behavioral mental health centers.