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How to express and heal yourself through art therapy

Updated on April 29, 2016

I love art for its value as a method of the expression of oneself. It happens to be a great therapeutic tool and practice, as psychotherapy for the very disturbed or even the average troubled soul.

For a psychology class I was to head an art workshop for my classmates, and after some research I compiled some points to share with the students while in the workshop.

Art therapy is beneficial in a group setting because

· Much of social learning is done in groups.

· Members can provide support to each other and can even be encouraged to develop resources and abilities.

· Members can get feedback from each other.

· Groups may be more preferable to find individual work and attention too intense. · Members can learn to share power and responsibility.

· Many therapists believe group work is more satisfying for members.

· Groups are more economical time-wise and financially for the instructor.

Art encourages

· Creativity and digging deep into the unconscious through art.

· Analysis of the tangible resulting product.

· Communication if words fail.

· Participation of all members at their own levels.

A workshop should be divided into three parts:

1. Introduction - The members introduce each other and an explanation of the activity. Also, if there are any rules, this is the time to set them.

2. Activity - This takes up about half of the workshop time, usually 30-45 minutes.

3. Discussion - This takes up the other half of the session. Either each person can explain their own piece or everyone discusses a few select works. If a group painting occurred, then everyone puts in their opinion about it.

There are lots of different kinds of art exercises and games that can be executed in an art workshop. Here are a few:


· Use a couple warm-ups; first draw yourself as an animal, then draw yourself as a form of transport. The main idea is to analyze the self physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Individual work:

· Close your eyes and scribble freely for about three seconds with whatever medium you like. Open your eyes and try to recognize something in the shape you made. Use other types of mediums to finish the picture. Continue making scribbles, etc.

· Think of six emotions that you experience often, three positive and three negative. Write them at the top of separate pieces of paper. Illustrate the first emotion, using the last time you felt that way as inspiration, and repeat for all the emotions. Use lines, shapes, forms, and intensity, but try not to be too symbolic and cliché as it might not be appropriate for you. Look at the "emotions" and try to figure which is most relevant to you at the time. Gather the materials you feel represent the emotion and convey it. Ask yourself why you selected that main emotion, if some of the initial emotions were easier to depict than others, if there are connections between the emotion and the colors/materials used, were the emotions easy to release or contained, and what you want to do with the final image.

Group work:

· Paint yourself as a kind of food, then join up with someone whose food they painted goes well with your food. Then make a team collage or have a conversation in paint.

· Scribble exchange: Do a scribble as described above and then exchange them with a partner. Refine your partner's scribble.

· Group Scribble: Scribble for five minutes all together for about five minutes. Imagine you are walking into the scribble. Ask what kind of environment you're walking into. Everyone tear up the scribble into little pieces, then each gather up as many as you need and put them together into a collage.

Here are a couple of aspects to look at for analysis:

· What size paper are you working on? Why? Small papers indicates a preference for safety and security rather than being adventurous and open.

· Where do you draw on the page?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

· Does your drawing say something to you?

· When you have opportunities, do you respond to meet the challenge?

· Does your imagery give insight into how you do what you do, where are you in being who you are?

· What are similarities between the pictures you draw?

· More lines than curves?

· Do the colors represent your moods?

· Themes between images?

· What aspects do you like the most and the least?

· What three words would you use to describe your piece?

· How you do feel now that you've finished the picture?


· You have space to work on. Use it.

· Stay in touch with your vision and your touch and any emotions associated with them. Respect your creativity.

· Put trust into yourself, your body and your perception of what's right for you.

· Try to communicate what you feel. Let yourself get involved.

· Relax.

· Start with self-exploration and seeking self-discovery. Be aware that you are aware.

· Accept responsibility for your work and love it.


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    • profile image

      Char Tutor Mentor 4 Psychology 6 years ago

      Thanks for an informative post~ I coordinate a community group and we are crafting and socialising as a way of healing and creating greater social inclusion.

    • jeremytorres profile image

      jeremytorres 6 years ago

      Thanks for the information, Great job.

    • Gigi2 profile image

      Gigi2 7 years ago from UK

      I suffer from depression. When I'm really bad I paint my best work. I thinks it's my brains way of letting it go. Great hub. I will return to it often, much to glean.

    • YU_First 1 profile image

      YU_First 1 7 years ago from Uganda

      I had never considered art to be a means of therapy. This has truly been inspirational and I am going to try some of the exercises recommended herein. Great Work!

    • Crazichic4life profile image

      Crazichic4life 8 years ago

      I lvu your hub very interesting and inspirational are u an actual therapist sure sounds lik it

    • beachartist profile image

      beachartist 10 years ago

      Very nice article indeed. I share many of the views personally myself. I love arts and appreciate the many benefits art brings to life. Nice to have another hubber enjoying arts. Keep up the good work.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Great Hub! One summer, I hired an art therapist to work with middle school youth that suffered reading problems and through art, she raised their reading grade levels an average of 2-3 grades in 6 weeks. Art is important in so many ways for us, physically, mentally, emotionally... Great Hub!