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Do-It-Yourself Art Therapy Exercises

Updated on January 25, 2010

Art therapy is a type of therapy that uses the creative process as a tool to foster self-expression. Though art therapy is beneficial for mental health and stress management, many treatment programs have discontinued art therapy services due to a lack of insurance coverage. However, people who struggle with mental illness or stress can use do-it-yourself art therapy exercises on their own.

As an individual seeking to use art for stress management and self-expression, art therapy offers limitless methods of healthy self-expression. Art is a safe way to express anger, depression, frustration, joy, hope, love, and fear. Often, the individual feels uneasy or critical of their own work. The person should try to accept that there are no errors in art therapy. There’s no “wrong” way to use art. The individual should try not to be critical of their own work. It doesn’t matter if the final product is stick figures or scribbling. The goal is self-expression by any means.

For people who want to use art as an expressive tool but are self-conscious about their artistic ability, collages are an ideal exercise. Focusing on fears, hope, or emotions that the person currently feels, a collection of images and words can be cut from magazines or other printed materials. Collages are usually formed by covering an entire sheet of paper with selected images, but there are no rules. The person may also want to add paint, ribbon, or other embellishments that the person desires.

Many people find keeping a creativity journal to be helpful. A creativity journal can include poetry, drawings, letters, freewriting, or any other mode of self-expression that will fit on the journal page. Freewriting is writing freely without editing. A creativity journal is a safe place for self-expression that does not need to be shared with anyone.

I am a fan of making a self-esteem box. A self-esteem box is a craft box, which are available at Walmart and craft stores, that is decorated with paint of decopodge. The person then cuts strips of paper and writes things that they like about themselves, happy memories, and compliments that they have received. The strips of paper can be just plain squares of construction paper or shapes like hearts. The person could store small keepsakes that remind them of being loved or a happy memory in the box. When people are being critical of themselves or suffering from an episode of depression, the contents of the box serve as a reminder that the harsh or judgmental feelings are temporary.

If you use art therapy on your own, you may want to share your art or creativity journal with your therapist. Though sharing the art is up to the individual, art produced with art therapy exercises can often provide insight which can be helpful in the therapeutic process. For more information on do-it-yourself art therapy, please see my other hubs on the topic: Do-It-Yourself Art Therapy and Jonas Gerard, Abstract Expressionism, & DIY Art Therapy.


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      Baileybear 8 years ago

      Thanks for this post. I have been recommended to try art therapy and music therapy for my son with Asperger's. To help ease anxiety, for emotional expression and trying new things without fear of being judged


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