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Art therapy provides an alternative means of communication for people who are unable to speak or find their voice. Art therapy can improve physical and psychological well-being, reduce stress, and can address a variety of mental health concerns, according to the American Art Therapy Association. The following are five great books that are helpful for current and future art therapists. Living up to its title, The Art Therapy Sourcebook holds a wealth of information on every aspect of art therapy.

It contains a detailed overview of art therapy and its applications, which makes it friendly and accessible to beginners. This book serves as a guide for a reader seeking relief through art therapy as well as practitioners who hope to use the skills it contains to help others. The Art Therapy Sourcebook contains valuable information on creating an environment conducive to creativity as well as how to interpret art. Art is a Way of Knowing explores art as a path to self-discovery and enlightenment.

It has been recommended by certain institutes that art therapy can benefit those with schizophrenia and other related conditions. Those with learning difficulties. Art Therapy can be great for people with learning difficulties who may find it hard to verbalize their feelings. Those with dementia. When you are using the creative part of your brain this can help with stress levels and restore a sense of personal identity, which those with dementia may be finding hard to keep.

Those on the autistic spectrum. Creative art can help to distract and calm people down, as well as help improve communication skills.


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Those in the justice system. Prisoners are often asked use art therapy to help with their feelings in a healthy way. As mentioned before, art therapy can help with expressing feelings and it can also help patients to regain their sense of control and freedom. Those who find it difficult to express their feelings. People who find this hard can use art therapy to show their emotions without too much verbal communication.

Here are the types of art therapies that you could choose from. Painting This art therapy technique is probably the most limitless. Collaging Collaging is where you cut and stick pictures that inspire you or express your emotions and put them all together. Digital Art As times are changing now, we need new techniques to keep up with it. Photography For those who maybe are not as keen on drawing and painting as others, photography can be a great outlet. Again, your art therapist can help you figure out which photography could be best for you. Textiles Using textiles in art therapy can be when you either use them as toys and puppets or if you have physical difficulties with using art suppliers due to motor skills, for example.

Katherine Hurst. It helps them refocus by becoming aware of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors, and then transforming negative behaviors into more positive ones. Clients begin to understand what to accept and what to challenge in their life. Life Essentials Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Evaluation of needs and desires, and examination of goals may be focused upon.

Goals include self-awareness and self-assessment. Procedure: Clients are asked to draw the person sitting next to them using only color, lines and shapes. They are encouraged to be totally abstract so as not to be too threatening. Goals include exploration of self and connecting with peers. Relationships I 2 Materials: Pre-drawn figures, markers, crayons, pastels, pencils, pens, drawing paper. They are asked to complete the figure add a face, hair, etc. Lines may be drawn near the figure beforehand to make this easier even easier if the figure and lines are created using the computer.

What personality characteristics are important to you? What physical characteristics are important?

What type of person do you usually find appealing? What types of relationships have you had in the past? Were the relationships to your satisfaction? Discuss your ideal relationship. How realistic is such a relationship? Explore possible ways to achieve it.

Exploring ways to improve relationships may be emphasized. Survivor Materials: Drawing paper, markers, crayons. Procedure: Clients draw a person preferably themselves as a survivor. It could be the survivor of an accident, relationship, illness etc. Clients are then asked to write five reasons why the survivor in the picture should continue to strive to survive. Group members are encouraged to examine their endurance, strengths and survival skills. Goals include awareness of individual power and courage, and examination of coping techniques. Mandalas: Emotions Materials: Paper plate, paper, markers, crayons, pastels, drawing paper, pencils.

Procedure: Group members trace the outline of a circle from a paper plate and discuss what a mandala may represent. Mandala is Sanskrit for circle and in the therapy group is used as a symbol for focusing and healing. Clients are asked to fill in the mandala with colors and shapes that represent various emotions they are experiencing or have experienced in the past. Boundaries and appropriate expression of feelings may be explored.

The decades included depend on the average ages of the clients. Group members are directed to draw symbols, people, places and things that are representative of their life during each decade. Explorations of experiences, both positive and negative, are examined.

Conversation may focus on how to use past strengths and experiences to deal better with present and future challenges. Procedure: Instruct clients to fold their paper in thirds. Ask that they draw themselves holding on to their anxiety on the first third of the page, releasing their anxiety on the second third of the page, and on the last third of the page ask them to draw themselves anxiety free. Goals include learning to live and value oneself as an emotionally secure individual. Sky Diving Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers.

It is their first time doing this. The count down is on… 5, 4, 3, 2… now ask participants to draw what happens next. The drawing and associations to it may be used to explore how clients take on new challenges. Coping skills are emphasized. Clouds I Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers.

Procedure: Draw a maze of clouds. You may or may not include yourself in the picture. Participants will relate the cloud maze to their life maze. How they draw and relate to the cloud maze may reflect how they are approaching present issues. Clouds II Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Ask participants to visualize themselves in a plane high up in the air.

The ride is pleasant and smooth; the sky is light blue. Gradually the clouds become prevalent and there is a thick mist. All of a sudden they feel a jolt; there is much turbulence and the plane starts rocking and making strange noises. Now ask group members to draw what happens next.

Does he panic; does she hold on for dear life? Does the person jump out of the plane? Does he ignore the turbulence and continue reading his book?

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Does she hold on to the person next to her or console the person next to her? Group members will be asked to relate how they handle this problem to how they handle challenges and predicaments in their own life. Do they panic, take problems in stride, reach out to others, etc? The Unknown Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Direct group members to fold their paper in half. Ask them to imagine themselves walking through a dark wooded area. Ask them to think about how they are feeling, what they are seeing, touching, hearing and experiencing.

Suggest that they draw what is behind them on the first half of the paper and what is in front of them on the second half of the paper. Leave the suggestion vague so that they may include whatever they wish in the picture. Clients may be encouraged to relate what they sketched behind them to their past and what they sketched in front of them to their future.

Discussion may include how clients have handled previous situations, are handling their present situation, and thoughts about the future. Coping skills will be explored. Lost and Found Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Ask group members to fold their paper in half. On one side of the paper ask clients to draw something in life they have lost.

On the other side of the paper ask them to draw something in life they have found. Examples might include: losing a friend but finding a husband, losing a job but finding a new profession. Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Goals include increasing self-awareness and self-esteem. Present and Future Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Implementing a plan of action toward recovery may be focused upon. Procedure: Ask clients to fold their paper into thirds. Characteristics such as rigidity, perfectionism and negativism may be explored. Goals include self-awareness and tolerance of others.

Memories Materials: Eight-inch diameter doilies or larger , pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Ask clients to fill the doily in with a beautiful memory. The lovely, intricate design of the doily lends itself to thoughts about births, marriages and other special occasions. Clients are encouraged to focus on the positive and explore methods to attain happiness and fulfillment in their lives.

Best and Worst Self Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Direct clients to fold their paper in half and draw themselves at their best on one side of the paper and at their worst on the other side of the paper. Burdens Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Direct group members to draw themselves with their burdens piled on their shoulders.

Emphasize that the burdens may be depicted realistically or abstractly using line, shape and color. The way in which the burdens and the shoulders are depicted will assist in assessing the strength of the burdens as well as the strength of the individual. Questions to ponder may include: 1. Frequently clients do not recognize their attributes. When they observe drawings of strong, large shoulders, for example, they often acknowledge that they have not been giving themselves credit for past achievements and strengths. Narrow shoulders, on the other hand, may help clients understand the need to increase their emotional strength and work toward acquiring better coping skills.

Procedure: Direct clients to draw things that stress them. Suggest that they may include people, places and other physical and emotional stressors in their life.

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It would be beneficial if clients included at least two stressors in their artwork. The artwork allows clients to view and measure their stressors in terms of significance and achievability by observing many of these factors. Goals include examining challenges and exploring coping mechanisms. Summary of Your Life Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Suggest that clients draw a summary of their life on a large sheet of drawing paper.

They may fold the paper in thirds, fourths or sixths and depict their life in an orderly manner or create an abstraction. When clients are finished, the person sitting next to them will be given the opportunity to interpret it for the group members. The artist will first give permission for this to be done and then correct the interpreter if needed and answer questions from participants. Goals include self-awareness and socialization. Procedure: Ask group members to draw a circle. They may trace around a paper plate. Suggest they draw themselves engaging in an activity inside or outside of the circle.

Goals include exploring energy levels and leisure skills, the need for comfort and security, and independence versus dependence. Upon examining her artwork, an older woman named Penelope stated she represented a friend taking a picture of her. She drew this within the circle. She was able to acknowledge that her self-esteem was very low and she was afraid to venture out into the world. She could not see herself artistically or realistically venturing forth into the world.

She wanted to stay in the psychiatric program as long as possible. Swimming Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Ask clients to draw themselves swimming. How are you swimming are you sashaying through the water, sinking, floating, doing the dog paddle, the back stroke, holding on to an inner tube, struggling to keep your head above water, drowning, etc.

Are you relaxed or out of breath, swallowing water? Are you in warm, wavy, cold, or smooth water? Are you in an ocean, river, lake, pond or swimming pool? Is the water dark and gray or clear green or blue? Are you alone or with someone? Are you content or tense, joyful or sad? Are you drawn tiny, small or large, strong or weak?

Procedure: Ask clients to draw a door. Questions to ponder include: 1. Where does the door lead? What is in store for the future? Is the door opened, partially opened, or closed? Is the door large or small; does it seem accessible? The goals of the project include greater self-awareness and exploration of willingness and readiness to explore options and goals. Procedure: Ask clients to design a booklet consisting of the chapters of their life.

Suggest they emphasize the chapter they are presently experiencing. Encourage clients to describe this chapter and discuss their thoughts about it. Suggest they ponder whether they are satisfied with this chapter, would like to go back to a previous chapter or move on to a new chapter.

If they want to move on ask them to describe in detail what the new chapter would include and exclude, and how it would make them feel. Goals include exploring experiences and achievements to increase self-esteem and the exploration of needs, desires and goals for greater self-awareness. Hairdos 6 Materials: Paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Ask clients to draw the various hairdos they wore during different stages of their life for example, a ponytail as a youngster, pageboy as a teenager, beehive as a young woman.

For example, the flip hairdo might remind a client of the prom, braids might elicit childhood memories. Goals include reminiscing and self-reflection. Real and Ideal Self Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Suggest that clients fold their paper in half and draw their genuine self on one side of the paper and their ideal self on the other side of the paper.

Goals include self-awareness and examination of personal goals. Procedure: Suggest that clients draw their anchor what is keeping them from moving ahead in their life, what is weighing them down. Ask group members to share specifically what the anchor is stopping them from accomplishing in their life. Some examples have been getting a divorce, getting over depression and moving to a new home.

A client in her sixties drew a large black anchor on the bottom of the ocean floor surrounded by sharks and other fish. She stated that her anchor has been around for most of her life and keeps her from venturing out in the world and forming relationships. She related the anchor to depression and insecurity, the shark to her mother, and the fish to people who have rejected her throughout the years. This individual had been verbally abused by her mother. Control I Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Suggest that clients draw the souvenirs that they have acquired over the years.

Give examples such as postcards, letters, and sculptures from different countries, etc. Clients usually share more of themselves when they discuss their prized mementoes.

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Goals include review of past events, reminiscing and self-awareness. Draw Your Armor Materials: Paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Discuss what armor is and how it has been used over the centuries. Then ask clients to draw their armor what protects them from outside forces. The type and amount of armor may be explored is it large, heavy, bright, cumbersome, etc. In one session a client remarked that her armor was her bible and prayer. A client named Jane represented her armor as her anger. She drew a large figure in bright red and gray the closest color she could get to silver armor.

She stated that she often is sarcastic, mean and yells at people. Procedure: Ask group members to draw their role in the group. For example, are they a listener, a leader, the mother figure, the jokester, etc. They may draw themselves within the group setting for instance seated in a circle if they please. How long have you been in this role? Goals include self-awareness and exploration of relationships. Counting Blessings Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Ask clients how often they focus on the pleasures in life instead of problems and frustrations.

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Direct clients to think about what is positive in their life and draw their blessings in any manner they please. Explore how blessings often represent achievements in life such as children, a lovely home, good physical health, etc. Goals include increased self-esteem and self-awareness. Procedure: Instruct clients to draw a stressful situation. On a second sheet of paper ask them to sketch one pair of eyeglasses.

Suggest that the glasses should be representative of a person whose opinion and views they respect. Support group feedback for each stressful situation presented. Goals include increased insight and perspective.

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Coping skills are examined. The Date Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Discuss if their date is reality or fantasy for them. Explore the importance of self-care and self-soothing. Procedure: Instruct clients to create the book cover of their autobiography. Ask them to include the title of the book.

Group members may be asked about their satisfaction with life and if they have lived up to their potential. Goals include self-awareness, exploring aspirations and self-esteem. Dancing in the Rain Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Use the artwork to explore how clients deal with their problems. Do they dwell on the negative or focus on the positive? Goals include self-assessment and exploration of coping mechanisms. Transformation I Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Instruct clients to draw a negative picture and then transform it into a positive picture.

They may add to the image in order to alter it, or create a new illustration next to it. The Breakdown Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Hand out paper and demonstrate how to fold it into fourths. Instruct clients to listen to the following scenario. You are all alone.

The sun is beginning to set and it is getting cold. Now draw what you would decide to do, step by step, in the four boxes provided. Encourage clients to relate the way they approached this dilemma to the way they approach their own pressing issues. Goals include learning how to work through issues one step at a time, and working towards independence and self-reliance. The Teardrop Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Instruct clients to draw a large teardrop that fills most of the page. This project helps them express troubling issues in a relatively non-threatening manner.

Discussion focuses on examining specific issues and problems.

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Coping mechanisms are explored. Clients fill in the teardrop with sorrowful images and the circle with hopeful thoughts. Procedure: Direct clients to draw someone or something they are pushing away from and someone or something they are pulling towards them. Goals include increasing self-awareness and examination of goals. Procedure: Instruct clients to draw their scar.

Support clients to relate their artwork to their experiences and feelings. Examine the benefits and negatives of having a scar. Procedure: Ask clients to draw the best present they ever received. Clarify that it could be a tangible item but it could also be special words, praise, etc. This exercise encourages clients to look at the positive aspects of their life. Goals include increased self-esteem and identifying positive feelings and thoughts. A client named Gil drew stick figures sitting around a table; he brightened when he reminisced about the time his oldest daughter surprised him with a 60th birthday party.

He smiled as he remembered the family and friends that came to celebrate with him. Another client named Barbara, who drew a bouquet of flowers, shared her delight when her husband came home with flowers and a necklace on their 25th wedding anniversary. She stated she was not expecting anything special.

Customs Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Read with clients about various customs and rituals that people have followed throughout history. Encourage group members to share and then illustrate customs they have followed in their own families and communities over the years. Goals include increasing self-esteem and a sense of connection to family and friends, and society. A schizophrenic client named Stan, who is often withdrawn, found pleasure in completing this creative exercise.

He shared that as a youngster he ate snacks every day after school and enjoyed this ritual very much. He related this previous custom to his present pattern of relaxing and munching on chips when he gets home from the psychiatric program. Connecting the rituals made him smile and gave him a feeling of connection between his past and present. Procedure: Direct clients to draw themselves as a child doing something they enjoyed.

Suggest they think about the feelings they experienced at that time. Examine methods to have fun and enjoy life such as going to the movies, laughing with friends, appreciating a silly joke, etc. Goals include exploring methods to attain similar pleasurable feelings that one experienced as a child and giving oneself permission to engage in healthy experimentation through humor, games, art, music, etc. Sophie, a year-old widow suffering from depression, drew herself jumping a rope. She is seen jumping high up in the air with a large, wide smile on her face.

Sophie looked longingly at her sketch and stated that she has lost the child within and needs to find her again. A client named Mary drew herself as a tiny figure standing in a park watching other children playing on the swings. She remarked that life for her is like that now too—she is always left behind. A year-old woman drew herself feeding chickens on the farm she grew up on and loved as a child. She expressed longing for the fun and freedom she experienced at that period in her life.

Procedure: Direct clients to fold their paper in half, and have them draw two of the best periods in their life, one on each side of the paper. Encourage clients to share what made them feel content with their life, and explore ways to find some of that satisfaction in the present through realistic activities and pursuits. Spirituality 9 Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Ask clients to draw what spirituality means to them. Suggest that spirituality could include religion, meditation, different ways of thinking, appreciation of family, love, nature, etc.

Draw a Volcano Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Ask clients to draw a volcano in any way they wish. Max, a senior who is recovering from anxiety and depression, drew this explosive volcano. Max remarked that it is a long-standing volcano that has been around for many years. Max went on to say that he is frustrated with his finances and with his marriage. Max began to explore ways to calm the volcano. It was decided that a dollar would go into a cookie jar every time he exploded.

Max agreed that his marriage might improve if he were in better control and could calmly relate his feelings to his wife. Support Materials: Drawing pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Instruct clients to draw something or someone an object, shape or person that is supporting something or someone else.

Explore the supports that group members have in their life and the support they provide to others. Examine the ease or difficulty clients find in asking for help. Encourage group members to share periods in their life when they were the supporters and periods in their life when they were in need of support.

Goals include self-awareness and exploring methods to be independent. She remarked that she is very sad and vulnerable at the moment. Edna sadly smiled while observing her artwork. She remarked that in the past she was the supporter. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and made all the plans for her large family. She drove all over the state and felt positive about herself. She stated that she hated this new role and felt guilty about requiring so much from others. Group members helped her acknowledge that there are certain times in life when we are givers and other times when we need to accept help.

Edna accepted the feedback but stated she much preferred to be the one in charge of her life and her family. Three Wishes Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Often clients project their own needs by selecting specific wishes for their peers; this projection of their needs and desires may be examined.

Goals include making connections with others, self-awareness and increase of self-esteem. Procedures of transforming some of their wishes into reality may be examined. Balance Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Direct clients to create a balanced design using various shapes. Examine if the designs are centered, scattered, etc. Are you off balance at the moment? Procedure: Have clients imagine they are walking down a tree-lined street and fall because of a bump in the cement.

No one is in sight. It is difficult to get up so they need to be resourceful. Direct clients to draw the way in which they attempt to get up. Relate their artwork and associated references to the way they handle their issues and frustrations. Goals include exploration of independence, coping skills and problem solving. One client decided it was too much effort to get up so he drew himself lying in the street with a frown on his face.

He admitted this depiction is similar to the way he handles his real problems; he has no energy to try to solve his problems so he dwells in his misery. Distortion Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Instruct clients to take a familiar object or person and twist or distort it. Explore the ways in which the clients may feel twisted or confused, and examine how they can untwist themselves in order to think more clearly and become more recognizable emotionally and physically to themselves and others.

Goals include self-awareness and problem solving. Draw a Pet Materials: Drawing paper, markers, crayons, pastels. Procedures to attain a similar feeling by finding something or someone else to focus on will be explored. Goals include reminiscing and getting in touch with positive feelings. Draw Yourself as a Superhero Materials: Paper, markers, crayons, pastels. Procedure: Suggest that clients discuss various superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman and Ironman. Ask clients to draw themselves as a superhero focusing on strengths, powers and costume.

Draw a Grudge Materials: Drawing paper, markers, crayons, pastels. Procedure: Encourage clients to share the meaning of a grudge complaint, feeling of resentment, etc. Suggest that clients draw a grudge they are carrying now, a grudge they had in the past, or that they draw what a grudge might look like as an illustration using line, shape and color. Often black and white thinking all good or all bad is to blame for this resentment. Discussion focuses on the specific grudge, the strength of it, and how long the client has been holding on to it. Draw Yourself as a Stone Materials: Drawing paper, markers, crayons, pastels.

Procedure: Ask clients to draw a self-representative stone. Tell them to think about transferring some of their traits onto that of the stone. Observing and examining the stone often encourages clients to share their attitudes toward change. Draw Your Challenges Materials: Drawing paper, markers, crayons, pastels. Explore whether or not the challenges appear overwhelming, moderate, easy to overcome, etc.


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  • Objectives include problem solving, acceptance, goal and action planning. The Treadmill Materials: Drawing paper, markers, crayons, pastels. Procedure: Direct clients to draw themselves walking on a treadmill. Do you reach a destination? Goals include self-awareness, designing a plan of action, and problem solving. Mountains and Molehills Materials: Drawing paper, markers, crayons, pastels.

    Procedure: Instruct clients to draw themselves making a mountain out of a molehill. Tell them actually to include a mountain and a molehill somewhere in the illustration. Explore briefly what this phrase means and how distorted thinking can lead to anxiety and stress. Goals include becoming aware of erroneous thinking styles and replacing them with healthier ways of thinking and behaving. Draw Your Depression Materials: Drawing paper, markers, crayons, pastels.

    Procedure: Instruct clients to draw what their depression looks like. Suggest they may depict it any way they please. Have them think about size, color, shape and the impact it has on them. By observing and examining the despair, the client gains some control back because now he may view it, analyze it and make decisions based on what he observes. Best and Worst Day Materials: Drawing paper, pastels, crayons, markers. Procedure: Ask clients to fold their paper in half and draw one of the best days they ever had on one side of the paper and one of the worst days they ever had on the other side.

    Goals include awareness that life is characterized by change; it has its high points and low points. Group members are encouraged to examine how to balance and accept the good and the bad that they encounter. Procedure: Read the following summary, briefly discuss it, and then direct clients to draw time as a shape or series of shapes and objects, or have them represent their thoughts about the passage of time. Where did the summer go? I blink my eyes and a week goes by, a month goes by, year after year goes by.

    It is so remarkable that as we grow older time seems to zoom for most people. Why do you think this is so? Is it because there are fewer new experiences for many of us and less to learn? Perhaps it is because as we grow older we are more aware of time and how precious it is. All I know is that it is essential to make the most of each day. Individuals may be asked how they spend their time and if they are spending it in a fulfilling and satisfying manner.