Art therapy is a powerful form of treatment. Experts often employ this set of tools to help people recover from serious trauma or mental illness. Many of the techniques are also helpful if you want to use the creative process to improve your health and relationships.
If you're curious about how art therapy can benefit you physically, mentally, or relationally, you're in the right place. Here are the major benefits of these techniques and some sample exercises you can do individually or with a group.
Benefits of Using Art Therapy Techniques
1. Get to know yourself better. Taking a pause from your daily routine gives you an opportunity to discover new insights about yourself. You get to reflect on how you're feeling and what you value most.
2. Promote healing. Put those insights to work. Use the images you create to help heal painful memories and remind yourself of all the things that you have to be grateful for. Art therapy focuses on the inner experience to help you find solutions to recurring challenges.
3. Reduce stress. Relax and enjoy the creative process. Forget about your job and your kid's grades for a while. Get absorbed in letting your imagination run free.
4. Strengthen your relationships. Art therapy can also have a social dimension. Share your activities with your family and friends. You'll all learn to process emotions better, improve your communication and build trust.
Ideas for Individuals
1. Picture yourself as an animal. Draw yourself as an animal. This can be one that you think you resemble or that you want to be more like. Your choice may teach you something about yourself.
2. Paint along with the music. Use music to loosen yourself up. Set down the images that come to mind as you listen. Alternatively, just wave your pencil or paintbrush like a conductor's baton and see what takes form.
3. Assemble a collage. Collages are an easy way to get started if you're stumped about what to draw. Put together a variety of found objects or cut pictures out of magazines. Add captions and quotes.
4. Invent a coat of arms. Even if wearing a suit of armour may seem a little ridiculous, you can still enjoy sporting a coat of arms. Come up with a sketch and a slogan. If you're feeling bold, put them on a t-shirt.
Ideas for Groups
1. Paint a mural. A big group needs a big canvas. Get an inexpensive roll of brown shipping paper and spread it out on the floor or tape it to a wall. Plan your design or let it evolve naturally.
2. Illustrate a story. Ask your partner to tell a story while you make illustrations to go along with it. When you're done, switch roles.
3. Create a group portrait. Capture the whole group on paper or in a collection of objects that you think speak to your identity. You can pair off so that each person draws their partner or take group photographs. Take multiple shots to capture different moods and poses.
4. Complete each other's drawings. Sit around a table and give everyone a coloured pencil. Pass around a piece of paper so each person can add one line until you have a drawing. Your collective work can represent an object or just be an abstract design.
5. Work on a mandala together. Mandalas are one of the most ancient group projects. Draw a big circle and fill in shapes and figures with coloured sand. When you're done, discuss what the picture means to you. Then, use forks or your fingers to rake it apart as a reminder that we're all constantly changing.
Have fun using the power of art to learn more about yourself and you'll welcome more happiness into your life. As you start to think creatively about art therapy techniques, you'll discover more ways to express yourself and improve your well-being.