Northside Group
Part of Ramsay Health Care


Art Therapy - Where to Begin

Apr 24, 2018

There are many different forms of artistic therapy including music therapy, visual art therapy, dance therapy, drama therapy (psychodrama), creative writing therapy… the list is as long as there are forms of art because any form of art can be practised in a therapeutic way.

We all have access to pens, pencils, paper (hopefully paint and brushes also), and everyone can draw & paint - a proficient skill level is not required in order to derive therapeutic benefit. So art therapy is a wonderful, accessible and low-cost way to nurture, develop, and get to know yourself. 

Setting aside some time every week to do some art therapy is a wonderful ingredient in your self-care plan.  Here are some practical steps you can take to implement some art therapy into your routine:

Identify a time and place where you can do your drawing/painting.  You can start today with whatever you have available, but once at home get yourself some art supplies just for this one purpose.  Don’t lend them to others, don’t allow them to get mixed up in the whole household’s belongings.  In other words, maintain boundaries around your art tools.

Make a plan regarding when you will front up and practice.  Make the plan SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based).  E.g. Every Sunday afternoon, at my desk in my room, for one 1.5 hours; and every Wednesday night from 8-9pm.  Drawing, colouring, painting whatever comes up without judgement.  

Adopt an attitude of play, fun, experimentation, no-judgment and no agenda.  This is an activity free of expectation, standards, or concern with results. An attitude of “art for art’s sake”; or “purely for fun”.

Expressing ourselves through art can be an effective and powerful way of connecting with our subconscious.  That is, with a part of our minds which has been silenced, holding long-forgotten content.  Some of this content can be useful to reclaim… and some of it might not be useful.  Therefore an attitude of exploration is ideal.  

If you have trouble getting started try the following:

•      Start with any image that comes to mind. Try to allow your mind to become fully settled on the shapes, colours,
        images that you find yourself drawing. Try to be accepting of WHATEVER images spring forth.

•      Draw an image from an actual dream 

•      Draw something you want to do, somewhere you want to go, a goal you have been holding for yourself, 
       a memorable object or experience.

•      Draw an image which represents something very important to you.  It could represent an abstract concept such as growth, time,
       struggle, peace, change. Consider adding colour and texture.  

•      Allow words and images to interact if they want to; and allow them to be separate if that feels right.  

Practising it a wonderful way to relax, to get in touch with dreams, to plan for the future, to make peace with the past, and to just be in the present.  It opens up a conversation with a part of the mind which is otherwise difficult to get in touch with. Art therapy and psychological growth go hand in hand, and makes the process of psychological development more interesting, containable and even fun.  Sometimes the images and words which emerge in our art bring attention to areas in our lives which may need attention and action right now; and that is the gift of art.