Have you been interested in starting art therapy, but feel reluctant because you don’t know what a session is like? It’s not as nerve-wracking as you think, and you don’t have to have any art experience prior to start art therapy, just a willingness to try and the knowledge that creativity and expression are your birthrights.
One of my favorite things about art therapy is that there are no rules, there are no restrictions; it’s all about what’s in your heart. Everything that you create is valid each and every time. If you still feel unsure, let’s put your mind at ease and walk you through what a usual art therapy experience looks like.
An art therapy session usually starts with you and your therapist talking about whatever is on your mind, or you might feel more inclined to get straight to making art and talking through it. It is a unique process and entirely up to how you are feeling that day. In most sessions with your therapist, there is a combination of talking and art-making. Some sessions, however, might involve more talking than art-making and vice versa.
Depending on your needs or preferences, you could choose to collage, paint, draw, or sculpt your feelings. You usually start with creating a visual image of your emotions, but you might find that you want to add movement, song, poetry, etc. to your image. The art that you create then becomes the object that your experiences are projected onto. What is happening internally is able to be materialized and looked at from a perspective outside of yourself. This gives expression to that which cannot be spoken.
Once you move through your emotions through the art-making process, you might then journal about the feelings that come up for you as you’re examining your art. Here you would ask, and listen to your image, rather than look or critique.
From there, you would give each element in your image a voice. Create an “I” statement for your image, beginning with “I am,” or another sentence beginning with “I” as you feel fit. At this point, you can also give your image a title if it feels necessary. This process can also be done out loud with your therapist, depending on your preference. You might feel more inclined to start sharing and talking about your art and the experiences associated with it right away.
Your therapist is there to help you and guide you, but you know yourself better than anyone else, and must follow what feels right for you. Art therapy gives you a safe space for absolute freedom and expression. Going through this process with a therapist is incredibly important because they can give you the insight and tools that you lack on your own. Without them, your thoughts and feelings are trapped in your head, sometimes with no rhyme or reason. They can rule your life if you aren’t paying attention.
Art therapy is a healthy way to release the bad feelings that accompany the shadow side and to find new and healthy ways to move forward. It is not always easy, but hope, persistence, and optimism will pull you through.
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Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, history, and learning about other people.