Creative Therapy Ideas
Inspiring Resources for Therapists
5 Amazing Art Therapy Activities for Adults
While working with adults, you will likely come across a wide variety of issues. From anxiety to PTSD, to grief to substance use, therapy with adults covers a broad range. But there are some issues that are universal. Many adults struggle with things like unresolved loss, life transitions, identity development, and conflict in relationships. And there are some art therapy activities that work well with these common issues. That’s why I put together this collection of art therapy activities for adults. These art therapy activities provide a helpful springboard for your work with adults.
* Disclosure : This post contains affiliate links, including links to Amazon, and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I only recommend resources, products, and services that I adore and find to be useful. If you happen to make a purchase using one of my affiliate lin ks, I will earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Read more about our policies here .
Using Art Therapy Activities with Adults
Some people believe that art therapy is the province of children, and that most adults would balk at the suggestion of making art in sessions. There’s no doubt children can do well in art therapy. This is due to a number of reasons, including things like their natural drive toward play and creative expression. But adults are driven to create, too. Plus, many adults appreciate the way art allows for nonverbal communication and exploration of issues on a symbolic level.
What’s more, art-making creates a safety buffer for adults who struggle with direct talk therapy. Art externalizes their issues, making it easier to communicate concerns by delving into the art, rather than themselves.
The Efficacy of Art Therapy Activities with Adults
An art therapy literature review published in Frontiers in Psychology (2018) looked at studies conducted between 2000 and 2017 to examine the efficacy of art therapy with adults. Researchers found that art therapy can be an effective treatment option for adults, especially for certain populations (i.e. cancer patients, adults who have experienced trauma, & the elderly), and especially when therapy is long-term.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Hayley Gallagher, MA, AT, LPC (@creativetherapyideas)
Art Therapy Activities for Adult Populations
Although more research is needed to further determine how effective art therapy is with adult populations, there are certain groups for which art therapy appears to be a promising option.
Here are some of the adult populations that could benefit from art therapy:
- Cancer patients
- Adults who have experienced trauma
- Elderly people
- Adults with depression
- Adults with anxiety
- Prison inmates
- Adults with dementia
- Adults experiencing high stress/burnout
Engaging Adults in Art Therapy
As mentioned above, adults often experience similar presenting concerns, but for some adults, things like health, stage of life, family constellation, and other personal circumstances create unique issues that require special attention. That is where art therapy can really shine. The client has control over the art-making process and the art will take them where they need to go.
The client has control over the art-making process and the art will take them where they need to go.
Some adults are not initially open to art therapy. That’s where it’s helpful to get creative. The Handbook of Art Therapy (2003) suggests you offer the following details about art therapy to help put them at ease:
- Art is another form of communication.
- Art provides an opportunity to explore problems and discover possibilities for change.
- Art externalizes the problem, making it easier to explore.
- Art therapy has little to do with esthetic value, or making something pretty or Pinterest-worthy.
- Artwork can provide visual representations that allow clients to picture scenarios, experience possibilities, participate in role plays, and reframe their meaning.
- Art therapy can provide a “visible trail”, or visual record, of their therapeutic journey.
- Art therapy taps into different parts of the brain than talk therapy alone.
Creative Ways to Use Art Therapy Activities with Adults
There are lots of ways to use art therapy activities with adults, including the standard drawing, painting, and sculpting. But here are a few more art therapy ideas for creative ways to use work with adults:
- Mixed Media, Collage, Assemblage
- Comic Strips & Comic Books
- Sand Trays and Zen Gardens
- Altered Books
- Activities that Use Bridge, Road Map, or Container Metaphors
- Combined Expressive Arts (i.e. visual, dance, movement, music, creative writing)
- Group Art Therapy
While there are countless art therapy activities for adults that could work well, these 5 art directives include some of my favorites.
- Draw Your Wall Art Therapy Activity
- Identity Collage Art Therapy Activity
- Unfinished Business Container Exercise
- Bridge Drawing Art Therapy Activity
- Meaning Machine Series
- Draw Your Wall Activity
This straightforward art activity provides an excellent metaphor for your adult clients to work through any number of issues. You can explore past trauma, current boundaries, life stuckness, and even check in on the therapeutic relationship.
A Metaphor for Adults Who Have Experienced Trauma
While the Draw Your Wall activity can benefit treatment no matter what the issue, in my experience, the Draw Your Wall activity is especially useful for clients who have experienced trauma.
Sometimes when people experience trauma, their brains and bodies go into protective mode, locking down the painful memories and physically embedding sensory data for future reference. This is helpful on a survival level, but when clients get stuck in that mode, they can experience all kinds of issues and symptoms.
That’s why I find the wall metaphor to be incredibly powerful for clients who may not be ready to delve into their trauma. The wall metaphor presented in this art therapy activity respects the power of the traumatic experiences. Instead of directly targeting the trauma, it respects those built up protective devices and explores their purpose.
Respecting the Client’s Need for Protection
I was working with a 23 year-old woman (I’ll refer to her as Sydney) who was having trouble opening up about a past trauma. After assessing that she was just not ready to go there, I gently introduced the wall metaphor into the session. I told her that we didn’t need to go deep into her trauma.
Rather than explore the details of her experiences, I asked Sydney to depict the wall that got built as a result of those events. This opened up a productive dialogue in which Sydney felt safe to discuss the function of her wall and the impact of the trauma in a broader sense, thus allowing her to keep necessary protections intact until she was ready to dismantle them.
How to Facilitate this Art Therapy Activity for Adults
Facilitating this art therapy activity for adults is pretty straightforward and can be done in a single session, or carried over several sessions.
Provide them with paper and drawing tools. It can be any size, but should probably be at least 8.5×11. Depending on the client’s issues, you may tailor the directive prompt to meet that need, (i.e. draw the wall between you and your partner, draw your wall in therapy, etc.), or you can leave it open-ended, and simply say ‘draw your wall’.
Once your client has finished, run through some open-ended processing questions to explore their meaning.
- Identity Collage
This simple yet powerful art therapy directive works well for clients who are struggling to define who they are. Whether their identity struggles are related to childhood trauma, unresolved loss, or a life transition, the Identity Collage art therapy activity can help them explore who they are. Because it’s collage, it’s super accessible for most clients and there is a lot of versatility in terms of what kind of prompt and materials you provide.
Identity Formation and Art Therapy
Research has shown that social-cognitive processing that is centered around self-exploration, self-reflection, and an integrated self-knowledge is crucial when it comes to developing a meaningful sense of identity (Beaumont, 2015). Beaumont (2015) surmises that “art therapy approaches that focus on increasing self-exploration, self-reflection, and effective emotional coping will promote the development of the integrated self-knowledge that is necessary for coherent identity formation” (p.7-8).
Exploring Identity Through Collage Art Therapy Activities
Art therapist and author Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC, REAT, explains in a Psychology Today (2010) article on art therapy interventions that collage is an excellent intervention to use with adults because they “don’t have to go through the agony of drawing something realistic and are spared the feeling of embarrassment that [their] pictures look like a 10-year-old drew them; this is welcome relief to most of my adult clients who bring this worry to initial sessions.”
Assemble as many different kinds of old magazines as you can find. You may also want to include printed images, mixed media supplies, and found objects, depending on your client’s preferences. You will need glue and scissors, too.
Arrange the supplies and provide a prompt for your client. For this activity, the prompt should relate to identity in some way. I usually say something like “Explore the materials provided. You may cut, rip, or select the images, words, or objects that resonate with you. Assemble and glue the collected pieces in a way that feels representative of your identity and inner sense of self.”
When they are finished, give them a chance to present what they have created. Ask open-ended questions about what you see and also offer up any “noticings” that occur to you about their process, product, and symbols. Be mindful not to assign your own meaning without allowing the client to do so first.
Container exercises are wonderfully versatile art therapy activities for adults and kids alike. Containers provide an excellent metaphor to work through a number of issues, including anxiety, unresolved grief, family secrets, and childhood trauma, to name a few. This art therapy activity for adults explores “unfinished business”, using the container as a metaphor for repressed/buried/unresolved feelings, regrets, goals, dreams, etc.
How Boxes and Containers Can Help in Art Therapy and Counseling
According to an article published in the American Journal of Art Therapy (2001) on using boxes in art therapy , boxes are a promising therapy tool. In fact, Farrell-Kirk (2001) states that “the use of boxes to enclose and conceal contents, create a new realm of space, and unite opposites makes the box effective in therapy. Due to the symbolic value of these characteristics, the box has been utilized throughout art history. This presence in art history is one of the characteristics contributing to the effectiveness of the box as a tool for art therapy” (p. 88).
When we go through something painful, whether it’s as intense as losing a loved one or as everyday as not accomplishing a professional goal, our brains and bodies sometimes do things with that pain without us even knowing it. Feelings and associations related to the pain can get jammed up, repressed, or acted out/expressed in less than desirable ways.
The container metaphor can serve as a physical symbol that can tap into those feelings and experiences. Exploring the concept of “containment” through art can help clients uncover things that are being contained. It can also help them contain things that may feel overwhelming or out of control through visual and/or tactile means. Containment activities provide a way for clients to protect, preserve, and honor those parts of themselves that feel vulnerable.
Containment activities provide a way for clients to protect, preserve, and honor those parts of themselves that feel vulnerable.
The Power of the Container Symbol for Processing Our Stuff
For example, when I was in grad school, our studio art therapy professor asked us to make a box out of cardstock that represented our memory bank. She then asked us to create small visual images on paper for each of the important things we kept in there. This activity allowed us to explore the parts of ourselves that we were holding onto, both positive and negative. Let me just say, when it came time to process as a group, things got emotional . 😭 In a good way.
The act of taking those little bits of paper and ink out of the box, holding them, talking about them, and putting them back in the box (and sometimes slamming the lid closed!), had a powerful impact on each one of us.
For me, honoring those parts of myself, bringing them into the light, and then containing them once again brought about a new level of self-awareness that I remember fondly to this day.
There are so many variations for how to use boxes and containers in your work with adults. They can be drawn, sculpted, or crafted. You could also use a ready-made container to build upon. For the purposes of this exercise, I prefer to use these small premade cardboard boxes that get assembled by hand (see below).
You could also have your client craft their own box out of cardstock or cardboard, too. For many containment art directives, the process of building the box from scratch can have immense therapeutic value, in and of itself.
However, for this art therapy activity, the contents of the box is the star so the premade option works well and saves time.
Materials and Directions
I give the clients various drawing tools ( these sharpies work really well on the boxes ), cardstock in various colors, and I also like to offer these brightly colored index cards . I ask the client to think of the flattened box as their ‘self’. I instruct them to decorate the outside in ways that represent how they show who they are to the world.
Next, I tell them to put the box together. After that, I encourage the client to draw symbols, images, shapes, words, etc. on paper that represent the parts of themselves that feel unresolved, AKA their “unfinished business”. Once they have all of their symbols inside the box, I ask them to take them out, one at a time, and talk about each one.
During processing we explore things like how their unfinished business impacts the way they show up in life, whether their unfinished business affects that way they show who they are on the outside, and whether any of their symbols could be explored with magnification, just to name a few.
- Bridge Drawing
I love bridge drawings. They offer a simple, accessible prompt that can elicit so much meaning. Bridge drawings make excellent art therapy activities for adults because they can help with processing problematic situations and difficult life transitions.
The Benefits of Bridge Drawings in Art Therapy
Sometimes the clients we work with come to therapy because somewhere along the way, they got stuck in a life transition. For some reason, they couldn’t quite navigate the developmental milestone, and they got stuck.
Bridge drawings make excellent art therapy directives for exploring these life transitions. They can also help clients explore what they need to get to the other side of a tough situation. Bridge drawings also help clients identify the barriers that are in the way through symbolic imagery and meaning-making. Additionally, when you ask clients to place themselves in their drawings, you get lots of good information about where they might be stuck and why.
There are many ways to conduct bridge drawings with your clients and I will put forth two options: a classic from the Handbook of Art Therapy , and my own variation geared toward difficult life transitions.
Classic Bridge Drawing Technique
This version of the bridge drawing technique comes from the Handbook of Art Therapy , from the section on clinical application with adults. In the chapter on using art in counseling, Gladding and Newsome (2007) describe a solution-focused bridge drawing.
Clients start by dividing a piece of paper into three sections.
- In the first panel, they depict a current problem.
- Next, clients shift to the third panel where they draw the solution to their problem. In other words, “what things would look like if the problem were solved” (p. 247). In the center panel, clients draw symbols for the barriers that are keeping them from solving the problem.
- Lastly, clients draw a bridge over the obstacles, creating a connection between the problem and the solution. With support from the art therapist, the client can add symbols, words, lines, and shapes to the bridge that represent ways to get around their obstacles. Clients may also depict themselves somewhere along the bridge.
Further processing can provide more clarification on how the client can solve their problem based on where they are along the bridge.
Bridge Over Water Drawing
In this art therapy directive, you can draw upon elements of the classic bridge drawing above while also “diving deeper” into the metaphor (please excuse the water pun).
For this activity, clients are asked to think about a difficult life transition. It can be something they have already gone through, something they are experiencing now, or something on the horizon. Next, clients are asked to draw a bridge across the page, drawing their bridge over a body of water. They are also asked to place themselves somewhere in their drawing.
In my experience, it’s most helpful to leave some parts of the activity open-ended. In other words, don’t specify what kind of bridge or body of water they should depict.
When they are finished, ask them to explain how their bridge drawing represents the difficult life transition portrayed in the art. Ask processing questions to further explore their drawing. For example, you could ask about what the body of water might represent for them, or how sturdy and reliable their bridge is, and what it’s like to be where they are in the drawing.
The Meaning Machine Series is an art therapy directive that allows clients to explore their frame on a particular issue, as well as what meaning they are assigning to things related to that issue. They get the opportunity to define and redefine their meaning around a given stressor or problem in order to work toward healing.
About the Meaning Machine Art Directive
I came up with this art therapy directive while working with a parent who was stuck in a pattern of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Her meaning around her ability to be a good mom was wrapped up in guilt about her past drug use. Her immense guilt seemed to rule her decision-making more often than not, and it seemed to extinguish any instincts she may have felt with regard to self-care.
I developed this series as a means to explore that meaning and help her discover a more positive frame.
The Meaning Machine drawing series serves as a springboard for learning how internalized messages, polarized thinking, and unprocessed emotion (i.e. guilt or shame) can keep us stuck in a rut. I chose a machine metaphor because of the way machines are designed to solve problems.
The basic idea behind the activity is for the client to take their current unhelpful view of their problem and put it through a “meaning machine” in order to fabricate new meaning that serves them better.
Exploring Meaning and Using Reframes in Art Therapy
When you assess that a client’s view of their situation is self-defeating, it can be really helpful to walk them toward a reframe. By confirming the objective facts of the situation, and then adjusting the lens through which they are viewed, you can help the client seize a more positive frame of meaning that can inspire them to approach their problem differently.
Reframes can honor and highlight the client’s mission versus focusing on the negative. For example, for the mother I mentioned above, I’ll call her Jane, a reframe of her past drug use and subsequent recovery allowed her to process through the guilt she felt. Through our work together, we determined that Jane’s drug use was a way for her to ‘sound the alarm bells’ about the overwhelm she felt as a single mom of 3 young children.
She found respite in her heroin use, and fully escaped the only way she knew how. This method of escape pulled in much-needed supports for her and her family. As things stabilized, she embraced recovery. She ultimately stepped back into her parent role, surrounded by a supportive community.
Using the Meaning Machine Art Directive
In therapy, Jane drew her unhelpful view of the problem as a dark, messy blob of lines and jagged shapes. The meaning machine she created was made of clean, round shapes and bright colors. After “sending” her old view through her meaning machine, a large heart filled with brightly-colored segments “came out” the other side.
Through the reframing process, we owned that the method wasn’t the best, as it caused damage in its wake, but we honored that her mission was good, and in the end resulted in her family’s unmet needs getting met.
This art therapy activity can be done in one session or over the course of several sessions, depending on how long the client needs. Using three large sheets of paper, preferably 9×12 or something similar, ask your client to do the following:
- On page one, draw their current (usually unhelpful) frame of their problem. Take some time to process their view of the problem. Explore ways this could be reframed. Ask them to look past the not so good method and identify the good mission behind the problem.
- On the second page, draw the machine that will fix it. If they need guidance, ask them to describe the tools they would need to get past the problem and their current negative view. Tell them to fashion a pretend machine that could shift their thinking about the problem. Once they have finished their machine, help them process what they came up with.
- Finally, ask them to envision putting their problem into the machine. On the third page, they should draw what comes out.
Once they are finished, explore what they have created. Ask them how their meaning has shifted and how their new frame will serve them.
Join Our Mailing List
Art therapy disclaimer:.
Introducing art into your work with clients can be powerful. There are so many benefits to art therapy, it’s easy to see why the field is growing. While it is possible to include art in your practice if you aren’t a professional art therapist, it’s important to ensure you have training on art therapy and how to use art effectively.
It’s also important that you are clear with your clients that you are not an art therapist, and you are not providing art therapy.
Though there are ways to incorporate art into your practice, the general practice of art therapy by untrained or non-credentialed art therapists is not recommended. According to the American Art Therapy Association, “art therapy can only be practiced by an individual who possesses the required training, certification, and/or state licensure. Bona fide art therapy is beyond the scope of practice of non-art therapists.”
Additionally, some art therapy directives can be self-guided, but they work best under the guidance of a trained art therapist.
About the Clients Referenced in this Post
Every vignette, case study, or reference to a client has been adapted and adjusted for legal and ethical publication. Names, demographics, and other identifying information have all been changed in order to protect client identity, confidentiality, and privacy. The information presented in each example is for educational purposes only, intended to illustrate a concept, technique, or activity.
About the Artwork in this Post
All artwork used in this post was created by me. The images serve as a reference for the reader. Most of the artwork I feature in blog posts is “response art”. That means that when I set down to create each piece, I reflected on my work with a specific client, and then created the artwork with that experience in mind. All efforts were made to comply with HIPAA law and confidentiality and privacy of all clients.
Beaumont, Sherry. (2015). Art Therapy Approaches for Identity Problems during Adolescence. Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal . 25. 7-14. 10.1080/08322473.2012.11415557.
Farrell-Kirk, R. (2001). Secrets, symbols, synthesis, and safety: The role of boxes in art therapy, American Journal of Art Therapy , (39), 88-92.
Fiese, B. H., Tomcho, T. J., Douglas, M., Josephs, K., Poltrock, S., & Baker, T. (2002). A review of 50 years of research on naturally occurring family routines and rituals: Cause for celebration? Journal of Family Psychology , 16(4), 381–390. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3188.8.131.521
Malchiodi, C. A. (2003). Handbook of Art Therapy . New York: Guilford Press.
Regev, D., & Cohen-Yatziv, L. (2018). Effectiveness of Art Therapy With Adult Clients in 2018—What Progress Has Been Made? Frontiers in Psychology , 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01531
Hayley Wilds, MA, LPC
Hayley Wilds, MA, LPC, is a licensed counselor, art therapist, certified family-based therapist, and clinical supervisor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hayley has worked in the mental health field for 20 years, helping both clients and clinicians.
You may also like...
3 Art Therapy Activities for Self-Esteem
9 Guided Journals to Use in Therapy
30+ Creative Art Therapy Exercises (with Pictures)
Check out our list of 30+ art therapy exercises for adults, teens and children. new ideas aren't easy to come by, so we've collected the best for you here..
Art Therapy Exercises for Adults
Art therapy is the practice of using creative expression to help create a sense of inner equanimity and peace. The practice can be used to soften trauma, to assuage anxiety, reduce depression, and boost self-esteem. The best part is: you don't have to be a trained artist to enjoy it. Art therapy is available to all, and helps foster a deeper connection to the self. The practice of art therapy has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, which makes sense in conjunction with depression rates rising.
But you don't have to be suffering to enjoy art therapy, it makes for wonderful outlet to reduce stress and find relief, no matter the circumstances. But where does one start with art therapy? We compiled an extensive list of excellent activities to introduce you into the world of art therapy. So grab your supplies, and dive into this expressive world of healing.
5 Art Therapy Group Ideas
1. blind contour drawing.
Supplies: Paper, pens, pencils, drawing boards or table.
Description: Split the group into pairs, inviting the coupled-off participants to sit across from one another. Ensure all participants have a pen and paper. Everyone in the group then draws their partner, but without looking down at the page. While drawing, you can keep your pen on the paper the entire time, or you can lift the marker, "blindly" estimating the gap between features. Even though it might be tempting to look down, practice resisting the urge, keeping your gaze on what's really in front of you.
Pro tip: It's more fun to instruct everyone to wait to look down until all members have finished their drawing to allow for a grand reveal.
Goals & discussion reflection: This exercise will not only likely get plenty of laughs, but also will challenge and improve participant's artistic ability to see. See if you can remain mindful throughout, noticing any discomfort that may arise, or any anxiety around wanting to make sure the picture looks good, and let it all go in the name of truly observing. We observe our partner, and we observe ourself. These works can oddly capture the essence of the subject, but give us a wonderful chance to truly see. When creating art based on a reference, we often get stuck looking at our page. If we can train our brains to spend more time looking at the subject, we will be able to uncover all of the details and translate that into our work. This exercise thus makes a great warm-up, and is a fun way to get into the creative flow.
2. The Five Senses
Supplies: Variety of objects for inspiration, and art supplies like crayons, markers, pastels, paper, etc.
Description: Find objects that encapsulate all of the senses. The classic example is a cracker or chip: it has a unique sound when biting into it, a flavor, you can feel the texture, looks distinct...you get the idea. Try to source objects that have vibrant expressions to the senses that include some contrast (maybe some are soft like a bag of flower, or somewhere in middle like cookie dough). Suggest group members select one of the objects an d spend a few minutes with it. Allow them to experience every sense as a focal point. Then, everyone draws their object using color and shape, keeping in mind the feeling the object invokes as they create.
Goals & reflection: There's more to this exercise than meets the eye...ear, nose, hands and mouth. Bad jokes aside, you're truly able to isolate the experience of a singular sense input. This usually inspires energy that translate to creative output, and instantly brings us into a space of mindfulness. In order to be present with our senses, we must be in the here and now. Ask people which sense they focused on most. And something else magical tends to happen with this exercise, when we focus on one thing, our mind softens and releases stress. It's a stark contrast to the everyday obsession of all the to-dos.
3. Bank of Affirmations
Supplies: One box or container per person. Square tissue boxes work perfectly, but you can use other wooden boxes, recycled containers, or even jars. Next, get all the decorating supplies you would enjoy using. This can be sequins, paint, scrapbook stickers, pencils, markers, sharpies, glitter, buttons, etc. You might type up the affirmations, you might write them on sticky notes, or perhaps on slips of paper you cut out with scissors.
Description: Ask everyone to write down a list of affirmations they want to embody or adopt as their own belief. Everyone can read their list out loud, and provide time for the group to add any new ones that may have come as inspiration from another person's list. Then, let everyone write their affirmation and decorate the cards to put in their decorated "bank". This exercise works well if everyone has 52, one for each week of the year to withdraw an affirmation.
Feeling stuck? We even have an extensive list of incredible affirmations, just email us to get a copy of it (masterpeacebox @ gmail.com)!
Goals & reflection: This exercise provides the opportunity to reflect on your intentions and what values you want to start focusing on. While it certainly can work as an exercise for individuals, we think it's more powerful done with others to foster that sense of accountability that a group creates. Invite everyone to reflect on the power of belief
4. Group Cake Decorating
Supplies: One plain sheet cake per group (group can be broken into teams, which requires multiple cakes), plastic spatula, icing, sprinkles or any other cake decorating materials (this could even include children's toys...get creative!).
Description: Wait..I didn't know art therapy could involve cake? Well, now I'm definitely on board! In this exercise, divide the group into teams (usually 3-5 people per cake is enough to get the benefits of teamwork while ensuring everyone gets to play a role). Encourage everyone to pick a theme to start. Probative questions include: is your theme literal or abstract? Are they planning to use symbols or words at all? Have teams collective create a game plan and then let everyone take turns contributing to the overall design.
Goals & reflection: This exercise is deliciously fun. Something about it always seems to create a positive atmosphere. Socialization, teamwork and cooperation come together with creativity in a beautiful way. Reflect on what themes were chosen and how people felt in the group (did they want to lead, or perhaps did they feel more comfortable letting others decorate).
5. Who Listens To You
Supplies: Paper and any drawing supplies (pens, pastels, crayons, markets, etc.)
Description: This exercise is pretty straightforward, but powerful nonetheless. Ask particpants to draw someone in their life who listens to them. Give them a moment to think about it, and remind them this is someone who makes you feel valued and supported.
Goals & reflection: As a group, reflect on the importance of communicating with others and having your voice heard. This also allows the group to share beautiful stories, and conjure images of their own support systems, which instantly uplifts the energy in the room. Remind people it doesn't matter much about their artistic ability, rather, it's the feeling and the ensuing meditation on the power of relationships.
5 Art Therapy Ideas For Adult Self-Esteem
1. Mirror Drawing
Supplies: We suggest at least an A3 size of paper, because it will provide you with enough space to keep the drawing of your face true to size. Gather any materials you'd like to create the self-portrait (which can be mix-media): colored pencils, oil pastels, charcoal, paint, etc.
Description: Your task is to draw yourself. Set up your mirror so you can see yourself clearly, making sure your mirror is large enough to allow for this. Make sure you are physically comfortable and strained to see your reflection. Begin by breathing. Let your eyes observe the light, shadow, form, texture and lines of your features, without judgement. Try to view yourself like this is the first time you are seeing the image. Then begin by drawing from the inside and working your way out (this will help you not mis-judge the size of features, resulting in a squished face). You can play with duration and time intervals, giving yourself two, five, ten or twenty minutes to complete the same exercise. Or, perhaps, make this a long-term project. We suggest at least starting out with a few quicker, short sketch warmups. This will help get the energy moving and keep you from obsessing over getting the details perfect.
Goals & reflection: As you work on your portrait, try to get absorbed in the moment of creating. Remind yourself of all of your unique qualities. Refrain from judging, perhaps noticing if those thoughts come up (we don't ignore the thoughts, but we also don't indulge them). Reflect on the miracle of being human, and wish yourself peace in the enjoyment of being human.
2. Visualize Release
Supplies: Soothing music, any drawing materials, paper
Description: Play relaxing background music and let yourself start to get visualize stress releasing. Start to slow down your breathing, and allow the breath to become the focal point of your awareness. Now start to imagine all that you are breathing out, perhaps exhaling fear, anger, stress, etc. Or, maybe you're letting out love and light. Whatever you are releasing in order to relax. Think about color, texture, size and shape. Now draw what you breathed out. You can use any type of form or design to depict the feelings and thoughts.
Goals & reflection: Reflect on the experience of relaxation. Notice what emotions seem to come alive in the artwork. With this practice, you'll start to become more in-tune with your inner state, being able to visualize stress and give it color and shape and a way to express itself. Through this, we can detach from the stress. Stress is just an experience passing through. It's not who you are deep down. Hopefully, you'll gain a better understanding of yourself and your feelings through this art therapy technique.
3. Self Esteem in Clay
Supplies: Any type of clay
Description: Work to create different representations of what self-esteem means to you in clay. Perhaps you create different versions of yourself across time, to show growth or what it means to step into a good space. Or, maybe you focus on creating a representation of yourself and other representations of the insecurities that block you from being your ideal self.
Goals & reflection : Notice how you see yourself in your mind. How do you portray yourself with the clay? What traits do you highlight? If you chose to work with representations of insecurities, is it helpful to see these as outside of you? How do they look?
4. Draw your armor
Supplies: Crayons, markers, paper, pastels, pencils, etc.
Description: Think about what protects you. Reflect on what outside forces are interfering with you. What is your armor? How does it look? Create a piece based on your own armor. It can be literal or abstract.
Goals & reflection: Reflect on what your defenses are and what are the reasons you have them in place. Do you lash out? Distance yourself? Hide? Yell? Explore your visual representation of armor: is it large or small? Bright or dark? The goal is to start to break down one's defenses and start to gain a deeper sense of self in the awareness of your own defense mechanisms.
5. Smile Collage
Supplies: Glue-sticks, magazines, photographs, newspaper, scissors, mixed-media
Description: Make a collage of all the things that make you smile, or perhaps of smiles themselves. Think of a variety of sources to gather your images. Bring to mind your own joy throughout this entire process. Does it feel contagious to spend hours looking at smiles? Do you feel elevated looking at things that make you smile?
Goals & reflection: Reflect on what truly makes you happy and brings you joy. Let this serve as a totem, a reminder, and something to spark joy when you need it most. The goal here is to reconnect with your own deepest desires, the things that are inherent and part of what makes you you.
5 art therapy ideas for adult depression
1. Body Scan
Supplies: Any drawing materials and paper
Description: Complete a mindful full-body scan. Close your eyes, and start to visualize relaxation melting all the way down your body, from the scalp to the eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, jaw, neck, shoulders, etc. Scan all through every part of the body, mentally seeing these parts starting to release and relax. Feel free to play calming music during this exercise. Take either two sheets of paper or one sheet folded in half and draw yourself before and after the body scan.
Goals & reflection: See how your piece may represent the process of relaxation. It may also be a nice reminder of the fact that we can in fact regulate our mood. This exercise will highlight the importance of learning how to self-soothe.
2. Papier Mache Masks
Supplies: Papier mache paste (3 or more cups of flower, 1 cup water, 1/3 cup salt, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, with the option to add food coloring). We suggest newspaper or a drop cloth to mitigate mess on your workspace surface. For constructing, you'll need the finished paste, balloon and strips of newspaper. For decorating, consider fabric, feathers, collage materials, etc.
Description: Blow up the balloon and cut out strips of newspaper. Dip the strips into the paste and place them to cover the space needed to make a mask (roughly 3/4th the way around). Let it dry for about 24 hours (more if still not hardened). Then, pop the balloon and cut out eye and mouth holes to make the hardened papier mache resemble a mask. If you'd like, you can start decorating as is, or you can create nose, lip and eyebrows (elevated features) by soaking paper towels in the mache paste and molding the features like clay. After this is dry, you can decorate any way you see fit.
Goals & reflection: Explore the idea of self-image. What masks you might put on in your daily life? Need inspiration? Watch the Ted Talk above to see how these masks can really work to bring you healing. Reflect on your feelings as you create and decorate you mask. See how you feel at the end.
THERE'S A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK - By Portia Nelson "Chapter 1 I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out. Chapter 2 I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend that I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in this same place. But, it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out. Chapter 3 I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit … but, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately. Chapter 4 I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. Chapter 5 I walk down another street."
3. Reflection of "The Hole"
Supplies: Paper, crayons, markers, pens, pastels, etc.
Description: Read the above poem entitled "The Hole, An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters" by Portia Nelson (1993). Rest in a moment of silence to let the poem sink in. Then try one of these artistic reflection exercises:
- Draw yourself trying to get out of a hole, which is a representation of your depression.
- Draw a general interpretation of the poetic piece.
- Describe the feelings and specifics of your own depression and draw the inside of what the hole looks like to you.
- Draw yourself surrounded by problems, or holes, associated with your depression.
Goals & reflection: One of the goals of this exercise is problem solving. Think about how you process your depression. Do you repeatedly walk down paths you know you shouldn't? Are you self-sabotaging? Don't get judgmental, but stay inquisitive of what are your habits around your depression. This exercise also gives you a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how you are trying to overcome the problems, and remind yourself that you are in fact working toward happiness.
4. Draw Your Depression
Supplies: This exercise can really be performed with any artistic medium. Consider pens and pencils, markers, paint, canvas, paper, etc.
Description: We suggest starting with a brief meditation or mindful check-in . Then, when you are a bit more relaxed, reflect on the experience of your depression. Now, draw or paint a visual representation of that depression. You can be literal or abstract, just stay connected to capturing the feeling.
Goals & reflection: The goal is to get the energy of the depression out of you. It's helpful to see it visualized, further distinguishing it, separating the depression from who you truly are. We can start to see it as an experience and we can reflect on what we do in the moments when it arises, how we cope, and that there are moments when it isn't present. You'll gain some self-awareness and a sense of control when you see the image on the outside, subject to analysis.
5. The Worry Tree
Supplies: Drawing paper and materials (markers, pastels, crayons, pens, etc.)
Description: Draw an outline of a tree without leaves. You can also print out an outline of a tree if you prefer not to draw it. Then, use words, symbols, figures, shapes to capture the essence of your worries and concerns and place them where the leaves would be.
Goals & reflection: This exercise is helpful in expressing problems. It helps us get that energy out of the body. Notice the personality of this tree. What is the width, height, liveliness, and any other qualities of the tree. Is it crooked? Is it ominous? Is there a root system? Can you reflect and trace back to the roots, thinking about the causes of the worries that are in bloom?
5 Expressive Art Therapy Ideas
1. Mindful Mandala
Supplies: Drawing paper, colored pencils work really nicely, or any other drawing supplies.
Description: A mandala is a concentric geometric pattern. It is often used to represent the metaphysical or cosmological landscapes. Luckily, there are a million mandala coloring books to choose from these days. You can also create your own, starting from the center and making your way out, adding symmetric designs. Or, you can grab a paper plate and draw the outside of a circle and work your way toward the middle. Try to let the drawing reveal itself as you enter a flow state, not needing to plan too much ahead.
Goals & reflection: This is a wonderfully expressive exercise and opportunity to hone in a state a focus. Notice how you feel before and after, and let yourself create anything you desire. You'll likely enter a soothing space of enjoying the moment.
2. Meditation Painting
Supplies: Canvas, paint, paintbrush, cup of water, paper towels, protective cloth or newspaper.
Description: Perhaps start with a light breathwork exercise to start to transition out of your busy day into a state of mindfulness. Then, similar to the mandala exercise, allow the painting to reveal itself. Don't force anything. See what emerges and move in whatever way feels good even if it doesn't feel like it looks good. Want a little guided meditation to play? We crated one a while back to guide you through a mindful painting process, check it out here.
Goals & reflection: Express yourself without falling into the criticism or praise of your work. Just be. You'll enter a soothing meditative space of flowing with the moment. And the process is a cathartic transfer of energy. Bringing the inner world out, and giving it form, without having to explain it in words or with logic. Trust the process, and mindfully check in at the end to see how you feel. Notice any shifts.
3. Paint Flicking
Supplies: Canvas or paper, acrylic or tempera paints, paintbrush (or can be done with old toothbrush), water, container or cardboard box. Plastic drop-cloths highly recommended.
Description: Set up a protected area with the plastic drop-cloths and container or cardboard box. If you are using a cardboard box, cut out the top and one side and place it on top of the drop-cloths. Now place paper or canvas on the bottom of the box. Flick paint onto the canvas in a controlled manner (you can strike the paintbrush against your other hand). Let loose and have fun!
Goals & reflection: How did this feel? Did you feel a sense of freedom? What emotions came up while creating the piece? Can you think of a title? This method is great for releasing anger, or energizing yourself out of a state of apathy. It's expressive, kinetic, and creates beautiful artwork.
4. Designs with Tape
Supplies: Canvas or thin cardboard, masking tape, markers, crayons, pastels, paints, magazine photos, glue, scissors, etc.
Description: Use the masking tape to create different sizes and shapes across the cardboard or canvas. This is going to create negative space on your piece. So, you'll then want to draw or paint on the canvas. Then, remove the tape and see what designs emerge. You can now go back and fill in the empty space with new designs if you so choose.
Goals & reflection: This activity pushes you to experiment. Reflect on if you felt the urge to fill the entire space of the canvas, or if you were comfortable with the negative space. Overall, the main objective here is to express yourself. So let go of any judgements, and get creative.
5. Clay Time
Supplies: Any type of artistic clay.
Description: Start by kneading the clay, visualizing it as a stress-ball of sorts, melting away any tension. Bring mindful awareness to the sensations of the clay, noticing the texture and temperature. Create amorphous shapes with the clay. This is abstract, and there are no right or wrong approaches.
Goals & reflection: Were you tempted to create something representational? How did it feel to mindfully work with the clay? Do you feel more relaxed? Goals include trusting the intuition and boosting creative confidence through experimentation.
5 Art Therapy Ideas for Children
1. Draw a Pet
Supplies: Any drawing materials and paper.
Description: Your child may already do this by nature, but invite your kid to draw a pet, real or imaginary, current or of the past. Introduce probing questions to help the child bring the pet to life: ask what the pet liked to do, any toys it had, how it would move, etc.
Goals & reflection: Ask the child to think about what that pet means to him or her. This is a great way to facilitate a moment around positivity and love, and proves a great chance to reflect on relationships.
2. Color Mood Pyramid
Supplies: Paints and a canvas or paper.
Description: Ask the kids to draw a large pyramid or triangle. Then, have the participants fill in the triangle with colors that represent their different moods. Have them start with colors that represent negative moods and gradually fade into a representation of positive feelings. The top can hold the brightest most positive color and mood.
Goals & reflection: Take note of if anyone asks why is the sad mood at the bottom. Let them know they can recreate again if they feel it is more suitable to have the happy emotions at the base. The goal of the exercise is to give kids a chance to see how their moods change, and reflect on what behaviors happen in those moods.
3. Draw Yourself As a Superhero
Supplies: Paper and any drawing materials.
Description: Chat with the children about superheroes. Now, ask the kids to reflect on the strengths of those heros, and then ask them about their own unique strengths. Then, invite the kids to draw themselves as a superhero.
Goals & reflection: This is a great chance for the child to build self-awareness, reflecting on their own abilities. Think about how the hero helps others. What ways do we give back? This helps the child see that there is an intrinsic element of service in the hero, not necessarily just individual strength.
4. Finger Puppets
Supplies: Glue gun is helpful, gloves, and decorative craft materials, wiggly eyes, (pipe-cleaners, foam, yarn, buttons, feathers, felt, ribbons, etc.)
Description: If you use a pair of old gloves, you can cut off the fingers and tape or sew the base of the fingers to prevent it from falling apart. Add features and decorations to the puppets. You can dress them with fabric and give them wiggly eyes to come to life.
Goals & reflection: After the puppets are made, let the kids play with them. Give them a chance to talk about themselves through the puppet, asking what the child's name thinks about certain things. This gives the child the opportunity to express themselves without worry.
5. Create A Collage
Supplies: Scissors, glue sticks, yarn, magazines, coloring books, stickers, paint, pencils, etc.
Description: This one is beautifully simple: ask the kids to make a collage of things that make them happy. They will have plenty of ideas!
Goals & reflection: This is a great exercise to hold the child's attention, improving their focus, and encouraging them to finish whatever they start. They are also working on self-reflection to think about what brings them joy. A good amount of problem solving goes into the act of puzzling their composition together. This is highly expressive and good for experimentation too.
5 Art Therapy Ideas for Teens
Supplies: Black pens, Microns work well. Colored pencils if desired.
Description: Create a messy line doodle, allowing the lines to overlap in certain areas. Then, fill in certain chunks of your design with a unique pattern. Each section gets a new pattern. You can also use a circularly object, or any other object, and trace it on your page in different overlapping positions. Fill the segments with patterns. If you'd like, you can add color.
Goals & reflection: This activity will entrance adults, children and teens alike. The goal is to achieve a state of focus and flow. Experiment with patterns, and express yourself freely. Get lost in the act.
2. Words and pictures
Supplies: Sheets of drawing paper, drawing utensils, and index cards with various nouns (nouns work best, as they are concrete: dog, cat, flower, etc.)
Description: Let everyone in the group write a few nouns onto the index cards. Then, place the index cards face down onto a table. Pass out the drawing paper. One player then picks up an index card and has to draw whatever is written on the card in one minute. You can use your phone to set a timer for one minute, and after the time is up, other members guess what the drawing is. If someone gets it right, the artist and the person who guessed properly get a point. If no one is correct, the artist can either take no points, or get an additional 30 seconds to draw. But, if no one guesses correctly after the additional 30 seconds, the artist subtracts one point from his or her score.
Goals & reflection: This is a good exercise for group bonding, cooperation, and entertainment.
3. Mimic Famous Artist
Supplies: A reference book or smart phone to pull up images, and any art supplies you have available to recreate pieces inspired by your chosen reference.
Description: Review the works of a famous artist. Discuss the work of that artist, and get inspired. Using your own style, create a piece inspired by one of their works. For example, if Picasso is the inspiration, perhaps the teen creates surreal portraits.
Goals & reflection: Notice how everyone has their own unique visual language. Even if they try to recreate or pull inspiration from a renowned artist, their own style always seems to peek through. This is also a great way to educate teens about certain artists in an engaging, interactive setting.
4. Value beads
Supplies: String, claps, pliers, beads and any other available jewelry making supplies.
Description: As the group to think about what values they care about. Write out the values and let let a certain type of bead (color, size or shape) represent each value. Make a piece of jewelry inspired by the selection.
Goals & reflection: This exercise helps facilitate a reflection of what is important to the teen. They can grow a sense of self-awareness and acceptance that their values don't have to be the next person. We can all have our own set of values, and this opens the discussion to show how our values can guide our decisions.
5. Macramé Play
Supplies: Yarn / rope.
Description: We suggest using resources like YouTube or Udemy to sharpen your skills with macramé, learning the methods and then creating something fun: a friendship bracelet, earrings, coasters, a plant holder, wall hanging art, etc. The material is forgiving, low mess, and will hold teen's attention for hours. We have our own lesson you can check out too!
Goals & reflection: This activity is great to challenge critical thinking, problem solving, spatial awareness, dexterity, and focus. You really will be surprised how the kids will lose track of time and get into a mindful state of being with the artistic medium.
Phew! There you have it... A very long list sure to keep you engaged in creativity for days on end!
12 Most Interactive Art Therapy Group Activities For Adults
Art therapy is “a distinct discipline that incorporates creative methods of expression through visual art media.” There are a few different forms of art therapy, but, overall, it works as a form of psychotherapy to encourage creative expression while promoting healing and wellbeing.
For many, creative therapies — which also include dance, music, or writing therapy — can help those suffering from mental health issues to express themselves without having to talk or use words. This covers a wide range of both mental and physical illnesses by helping to provide focus and even hope for the future.
The great thing about art therapy is that it can be facilitated in person, remotely, on a one-to-one basis, or in a group environment. This makes it flexible for those leading art workshops and easy for participants to access therapy.
With that in mind, let’s explore some art therapy group activities for adults.
What happens in art therapy?
The specifics of each session are shaped by the various activities for art therapy that can be used. Generally speaking, the aim of a session is to help participants explore their emotions by giving them an outlet for self-expression. This can boost self-esteem and positivity, which can help to heal.
Art therapy doesn’t require any art skills or training for the participants. For those who run it, they generally need to have a master’s degree with 120 hours of supervised practice and 600 further hours of supervised art therapy internship.
The general structure of a one-to-one art therapy session includes:
- A client assessment
- Post-art making
Group sessions can be held less formally, with a group assessment to start with, and then art-making to follow. However, it’s important to take into account the needs of each individual . Instead of asking them all to draw something similar with one art medium, try coming up with a theme or prompt and giving them the freedom to choose which medium they’d like to use.
We hope the following 12 interactive art therapy group activities for adults will give you a source of inspiration…
Art therapy techniques and exercises for adults
If you’re ready to start facilitating group sessions as an art therapist, the following ideas should give you a good starting point. Remember that you don’t just have to use one — a range of techniques can complement each other.
Some of your clients may feel more comfortable building or creating using clay, yarn, or Lego. Others might prefer drawing using markers, an ink pen, crayons, or paints.
The ideas below are all fun, easy-to-do, and will also encourage conversations between the group.
Helpful art therapy activities for anxiety
While art therapy supports recovery from many forms of mental and physical illness, anxiety and depression are often the common denominators. Below are a few art therapy ideas for anxiety, backed by psychologists.
Build a safe space
Encouraging your participants to build their own safe space is an important and eye-opening art therapy exercise. First, ask them to visualize a safe space . This might be an imaginary place or a mixture of places and objects that have made them feel safe previously. This can be built with a few easy resources such as magazines, glue sticks, and scissors!
Create a collage of emotions
Similar to the emotions color wheel above, a collage of emotions can help participants to better identify and understand their feelings. Themes could include family, emotions, identity, hopes, relationships, dreams, or the future.
Draw in response to music
Music can often be very emotive. While music therapy is its own entity, music can be used in art therapy to bring emotions to the forefront. It can be employed as a vehicle of self-expression on its own or when drawing, painting, or creating as part of art therapy. Ask your participants to draw while the music is playing, or have them sit and listen to a piece and then create something to represent the emotions they felt.
While the term Zentagle® is trademarked, this method has been proven to reduce stress and promote relaxation by allowing lines and shapes to simply emerge. The official Zentangle® method follows the following eight-step process :
- Gratitude and appreciation
- Corner dots
- Initial and sign
How to use essential oils alongside art therapy activities
Aromatherapy can create a calming atmosphere and promote relaxation. So, where appropriate, essential oils can be used to complement and enhance art therapy activities. Use a diffuser in the corner or the center of your space to diffuse and spread the scent throughout the room. Some essential oils are even thought to help reduce pain , promote mood and lessen anxiety.
How Much To Charge For An Art Workshop? – Definitive Guide
The five most common essential oils are:
Below, we’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about art therapy activities.
What can art therapy treat?
While it won’t necessarily treat or fix the root cause of the problem, art therapy can be used to help boost self-esteem, express emotions, and to help lessen the feelings of anxiety and depression.
Who can benefit from art therapy?
Art therapy is generally applicable to anyone who needs emotional support. It’s most commonly used for people who have:
- Chronic or life-limiting illnesses
- Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
- Eating disorders
- Learning disabilities
How does art therapy help anxiety?
Art therapy can help anxiety by promoting calm and relaxation, giving an outlet for emotional expression, and helping to boost self-awareness and self-image. It works with other therapies such as CBT or medication to help soothe and lessen the symptoms experienced by those with anxiety – but is not a substitute for holistic treatment.
We hope that this article has given you some inspiration on art therapy group activities for adults. Many of these can be adapted for kids and teens, too.
Remember to take the needs of each individual into account, even during group art therapy activities. By providing various options for expression, the therapy can be made more individualistic and impactful — rather than if you encouraged everyone to simply paint using watercolors, for example. After the piece has been made, have a conversation about what the piece means, what’s reflected within it, and the author’s creative process. This can shed some light on their inner dialogue and point you to ways you can help them.
To give you the maximum amount of time to focus on the sessions and the needs of your patients and to promote your workshop , consider using a workshop booking software system . It will help you free up valuable time from managing clients, payments, and your calendar. With automated reminders, you will help your clients to remember their sessions to ensure they’re getting the maximum benefit from their therapy.
References and further reading
- Wikipedia: Art Therapy
- How To Sell Out A Workshop Online In No Time
- The 8 Best Tactics For Promoting A Workshop Like A Pro
- Creative Therapies Introduction
- The American Art Therapy Association
10 Unique Art Prompts for Casual & Therapy Art Groups
Posted on Published: May 27, 2018 - Last updated: June 27, 2022
This is a continuously updated post about prompts for art groups and craft activities for expressive therapy and art therapy-oriented groups. To the best of my knowledge, these are new ideas not contained in other guides or manuals. These are appropriate for art groups in all sorts of contexts- from therapeutic groups to artists’ meetups, from art classes to “paint and sip” style get-togethers. Adapt the prompt and your supplies to your participants’ skill, comfort, and age level!
ART THERAPY NOTE: While art and other creative activities are often a part of my professional work, I am not an Art Therapist. The phrase Art Therapist is reserved for those who have completed an art-therapy-specific graduate-level training rather than a traditional clinically-focused psychology program. When traditionally-trained therapists, counselors, and psychologists use art and art-making as part of treatment it is referred to as “expressive arts therapy” rather than “art therapy” (a phrase reserved for Art Therapists). The ideas in this post can be adapted for non-therapeutic OR therapeutically-oriented expressive arts groups and used by anyone, including art therapists, therapists using expressive arts in traditional therapy, and non-professionals interested in art prompts with depth.
2. ART PROMPT: Mapping My Galaxy
Questions to help participants navigate the prompt:
What moves in orbit within the galaxies you inhabit? What are the significant constellations of your solar system?
Supplies: Standard Art Supplies Black Cardstock or Scratchboards Space Stickers for younger groups. White Acrylic Paint, Old Toothbrushes, and a well-protected space to splatter stars.
3. ART PROMPT: Redacted: Exploring Our Edits
“Redact: (verb) to hide or remove parts of a text before publication or distribution.” Blackout poetry is a method of composing poetry that creates a new poem by blacking out existing text in a book, letter, or technical writing material. Because it’s an editing of someone else’s words rather than a new creation, creating and sharing this type of poetry can be less vulnerable and easier to start for many people.
Prompt: Where have you edited yourself this week? What has had to be removed/edited/concealed before bringing yourself into this world? Who gets to edit?
Participants are given printed literature (old books, magazines for collaging, even old letters, and encouraged to “edit”)
Supplies: Standard Kit Letters, magazines, previously made (or thrifted) art, etc for “creative editing” Books + Magic Markers (for backout poetry)
4. ART PROMPT: Losing Control
Fluid Acrylic is acrylic paint formulated to be more viscous than water while maintaining a high level of pigment. Dropping liquid acrylic onto wet paper creates chaotic designs. The nearly-uncontrollable flow can be an exercise in letting go. Using this media, it becomes quickly apparent that the more one tries to interfere with the painting process, the more muddled the art becomes. The effects of the fluid acrylic as it spreads across the page, merging or sometimes chasing other colors, are mesmerizing.
This can be a variation on one of D.W. Winnicott’s- the famous researcher and therapist of parents and children- favorite ways to therapeutically play with children: Drawing a squiggle or abstract image, he’d invite the child to imagine what they saw in the picture, and add details (ears, mouth, feet, etc.).
Be sure to provide enough paper for multiple paintings for each person. Plan to leave the paintings overnight to dry- fluid acrylic will remain wet and “drippy” for many hours after painting. If clothing or textiles are stained, rinse the stain and then keep the stain wet until the item can be machine washed.
- fluid acrylic paint
- low tooth (i.e. smooth, not textured) watercolor paper (or non-porous Yupo Paper for even more dramatic results)
- drop cloths to protect surfaces
- vials and droppers – fluid acrylic comes in easy to spill containers, but these vials or
- glue syringes are great for limiting spills.
NOTE: Fluid acrylic can be messy. This activity is best for small groups with members that are able to both psychologically and physically manage working with a difficult to control media.
5. ART PROMPT: Retelling My Story
All of us have been handed a story by our culture, family, and education. Self-discovery is often a process of finding out where this story actually has overwritten elements of our lived identity or narrative. In this prompt, participants each choose a discarded library book and are encouraged to consider the power they have to change how a narrative is engaged. Participants may edit the content (via blackout poetry) or the pages themselves.
Supplies: Standard Kit Hot Glue Xacto Knives or Box Knives (age and context-appropriate – for at-risk groups, participants can be encouraged to create through the artistic and cathartic process of tearing) Magic Markers (new and/or with plenty of ink!)
6. ART PROMPT: “what I actually mean when I say I’m doing ok”
This can feel like a BIG question, but to structure the prompt for participants I start the meeting by showing the examples of artist Mari Andrew’s work, who breaks questions like this down into pie charts, graphs, mind maps, or illustrated figures with well-labeled parts.
Supplies: Standard Art Supplies Sharpie Pens
Make this prompt even easier by starting with a printable PDF worksheet!
- Personal Use – $1.32
- Professional Use – $3.30
- Group Practice Use – $14.19
Or get All-Access as a $5/mo Patron
7. ART PROMPT: Kintsugi “Golden Repair”
Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with precious metals, creating reconstructed pieces with seams of gold.
In our group, each participant picked a thrifted piece of pottery, went outside and broke it into pieces, and then repaired their piece with gold epoxy (see recipe below).
Make your own super fast-setting gold glue by combining Quick Set Epoxy with Gold Mica Powder. The Quick Set Epoxy sets very quick- which is great for rebuilding, but be sure to mix very small batches (no more than 1 Tablespoon at a time) or you’ll find- as we did- your glue will set on your mixing surface before it can be transferred to the broken pottery.
It was fun to see how individuals translated this prompt. Some participants rebuilt their pot, others used pieces from other pottery to repair where theirs were too broken, and one person even built a lotus flower from a piece that had been broken beyond repair.
Supplies: Thrifted Pottery Quick Set Epoxy Finger Cots (epoxy on skin can be an irritant, these finger cots can be an easy way to prevent that, although you should definitely brace yourself for the inevitable snickering as these are, functionally, finger-condoms.) Wood Craft Sticks or Tooth Picks Gold Mica Powder Plastic Plates for Glue Mixing Gloves for handling broken pottery
8. ART PROMPT: Bob Ross Paint-Along
For one art group, we recently hosted a “Paint Along with Bob Ross” night. This prompt was intended to be playful and invitational, although even prescribed art can be expressive. The soothing and non-judgmental instruction of painting along with an episode of The Joy of Painting offers a low-barrier invitation to people who struggle with the fear of a blank page/canvas.
We simply found a full-length Bob Ross video online (Netflix has dozens!), screenshotted the list of required supplies (It also shows on the screen in the first few seconds of a show), and purchased small, prepped canvases and supplies.
I was intentional, as the leader, to invite participants to follow along or not follow along, and to either paint the scene, paint the scene the way they envisioned the scene, or to not paint the scene at all.
- Bob Ross Video (Netflix or Youtube)
- Canvases (we sized down to 8×10 and 9×12 canvases to fit our 1.5 hour meeting length)
- Paint (Bob uses oil, but we used acrylic, I just took the episode’s color list to an art supply store and purchased the acrylic equivalent to the colors listed)
- Supplies (A few decent brushes, big foam brushes for backgrounds, and palette knives , which Bob loves and we found thin rulers to substitute well for)
9. ART PROMPT: The Mask We Live In
3-dimensional mask making with air dry clay creates has possibilities.
Masks have long been a staple tool of art therapists, but decorating masks can be an expressive activity that works well beyond traditional art therapy.
Simply making a paper mask, or color or painting a pre-molded mask still limits the artist dimensionally. When I experimented with adding foam-type air-dry clay to this common art prompt, I was THRILLED with the way foam air-dry clay easily adheres to a premolded mask (no glue required!) and allows participants to build in more dimensions.
SET UP AND CLEANUP – This is one of the easiest prompts on the list! This prompt requires no printing, cutting, or prepping, and can be completed without special tools (like brushes, scissors, etc)
- Air Dry Clay (I use this pack of 36 individually wrapped colors )
- Plain Paper-Mache Craft Masks (Avoid the plastic version, since the clay won’t stick)
10. ART PROMPT: Repurposed
Remember when you were a kid and all you needed was an oversized box to imagine you were flying into space or lounging behind a mansion? This prompt invites us to consider what we can imagine from what is discarded.
- Glue Gun + spare glue sticks
- Cardboard Knives
- Box Cutters
- Masking Tape
- Cardboard from Recycling
This is appropriate only for groups and workspaces that can safely handle knives and box cutters. My result from this art group meetup was this whale-shaped piñata, which I made extra-extra sturdy so I could use it as a whimsical shipping box for my niece’s birthday present:
Recommended reading on this topic:
As a Bookshop and an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a commission from purchases made through the links below, this commission helps fuel my continued creative work.
Art Therapy for groups
by Marian Liebmann
( click here to purchase through an independently owned bookstore )
Poeisis: The Language of Psychology and the speech of the Soul
by Stephen Levine
Wednesday 6th of April 2022
Thank you so much. I really love the video on Kintsugi and how not to hide the scars but allow our imperfections to show. I love art, but am especially fascinated with this particular form of art.
Lindsay Braman, MACP, LMHCA
Wednesday 2nd of March 2022
Thank you for this question! I think you've pointed out an edit that needs to be made rather than a reference to something shady in his legacy. I'm going to update the article now to be more accurate in my language!
GET CREATIVE TO RELIEVE STRESS: 8 great art therapy ideas for adults
When you think about therapy, you probably imagine lying on a couch and confessing your secrets. While your treatment may sometimes take that form, it can also incorporate movement and other activities. One method with a proven track record of success for many is art therapy.
What can you do, though, if you don’t have a therapist or the means to afford one? Don’t despair! You can still reap the benefits of this treatment in the comfort of your living room. The next time you feel overwhelmed or merely need to practice some self-care, just try one of the following eight ideas.
Buy adult colouring books
Colouring books are magical for many reasons. You don’t need a lick of artistic talent to stay between the lines, and you can use colour to express your mood. Are you feeling whimsical? Who said that you couldn’t colour a horse purple?
Colouring also soothes the soul when emotions become overwhelming. It’ll give you a centre of focus, which will provide you with time for your racing thoughts to quiet down. You can find coloring books that have been specifically designed for art therapy use , or you can stop by any department store for supplies.
When you sit down to colour, pay attention to the way your mental state influences everything from your choice of picture to the hues you use. You can gain insight into the emotional state of your children by using this method, too.
Do they select dark, dreary shades or angry red ones? The former may indicate depression and the latter intermittent rage. How much pressure do they use—are they nearly ripping the paper? That also suggests hostile feelings. Do they take the time to stay within the lines, or do they seem haphazard in their efforts? Chaotic colouring book pages can symbolize a similar internal state.
Create a self-care box
You know self-care is a critical component of mental health . However, most people postpone pleasant tasks until they finish their work for the day. By that time, your brain may be too exhausted to think of any ideas that are more creative than crashing on your couch and binging on Netflix.
As a reminder to take care of yourself, you can paint and decorate a self-care box in accordance with your tastes. The idea is that it’ll hold scraps of paper on which you’ve written down your favourite ways to treat yourself.
You can also include small trinkets that remind you of your passions. For example, if you want to learn Spanish in your free time, insert a small Mexican flag from your last taco takeout box. Then, when you find yourself with 30 free minutes and nothing to do, you can reach inside and come up with the perfect idea to nurture your body and soul!
Knit an afghan
Have you put your favorite DIY project in the corner of your closet, where it awaits the ‘right time’ for you to work on it? That day is here—there’s no time like the present to get back to crafting an item as therapy.
This project is an ideal one to ease the symptoms of almost any disorder, but it’s an absolute godsend for those who are struggling with compulsive overeating. Knitting keeps your hands busy—it’s impossible to stitch while your fingers are reaching into a bag of chips. When your mind refuses to think of anything else but the kitchen, pull out that hat or booties you started until the urge to raid the refrigerator passes.
What if you don’t know how to knit? Don’t put your sewing kit away and admit defeat. Nearly anyone can learn to cross-stitch. You can also create a healing quilt made from scraps of fabric that you find meaningful. Each square can represent a different stage in your recovery journey.
Make a collage
If you have arthritis or another condition that makes hand movement painful, you might find it more comfortable to make a collage as a form of therapy. You can tear or cut pictures out of magazines, so there’s no need to grip a pencil, paintbrush or needle. Plus, you won’t need to spend much money on the other supplies you’ll need—you can find poster boards and glue at nearly any dollar store .
You can design a collage around nearly any theme. If you want to cultivate more gratitude for what you have, you could create a board dedicated to all the things that make you feel thankful each day. If you experience overwhelming feelings that you struggle to define , start looking through magazines for pictures that express your mood. As you add more images, you’ll begin to see a theme emerge.
You can also use collages as a way to remind yourself of other positive coping methods you turn to when you sense a meltdown coming. Perhaps you can add pictures of people exercising, or photos of fluffy kittens that remind you of volunteering at a nearby animal shelter.
Paint your emotions
How do you define your emotions? According to most feelings charts, you should be able to pinpoint whether you’re irritated, elated or disappointed. In reality, when you get the news of pending layoffs, you may feel a jumble of anxiety, despair, anger and fear. Your mood can shift from hopefulness at one second to melancholy the next.
Painting is an ideal way to express your emotions through art, but you don’t have to go Bob-Ross-style and stick to scenic landscapes full of happy little trees. You can embrace your inner Jackson Pollack and fling vivid colours upon your canvas. Go abstract with shapes and swirls that represent your inner emotional storm.
Feel free to experiment with different types of paints, if you have the means. For example, if oils or watercolours on canvas aren’t your thing, you may want to paint rocks with acrylics and make lovely paperweights. You can add glitter or pen designs, and then hide your creations around the neighbourhood to make other people smile. What a beautiful way to spread positivity!
A CONVERSATION WITH MY INNER THERAPIST: A self-healing writing exercise
Take photos of things that make you happy.
Photography is a form of art therapy, and you might have the device you need right in your pocket. You can find workshops on how to take gorgeous pictures with your cellphone, or you can opt for the self-taught route. You may get an extra boost of feel-good endorphins, if your endeavours lead you into nature to shoot spectacular scenery.
If you develop your talent, there’s also the option of turning this hobby into a lucrative side-hustle, since there are various websites that will buy your photos in exchange for commissions or distribution rights. If you’ve struggled to afford the copays for your therapy visits, this may give you the means to do so.
Write and illustrate your story
If you’re a survivor of mental illness or trauma, you have a tale to tell. Why not put it into words and include illustrations for your book? You don’t have to make it a novel—a children’s picture book will work well, too. You can choose any medium you like to complete the artwork (even finger-painting!).
Once you finish your book, you’ll need to decide whether to keep it private or share it with your therapist. If you think you have a tale that others will benefit from reading, you can even opt to publish your recovery story to help others in similar situations.
Sculpt spirit figurines
Spirit figurines can be as big or small as you like—many people carve little worry stones to carry in their pockets. When panic or other overwhelming emotions strike, you can stroke a rock of this type to centre yourself.
You may want to make a sculpture for your nightstand or your work desk, but it need not resemble an angelic being. As an alternative, you can carve the word “hope” into clay and let it harden into a paperweight.
Treat your mind and soul today
Art therapy is a fabulous way to complement your sessions with your counsellor or focus on your healing independently. Use these eight ideas, or as many of them as you choose, to help soothe your soul and ease your mind whenever you need to.
«RELATED READ» CREATIVITY IS ESSENTIAL: 10 ways for artists to stay motivated»
image 1: Pixabay ; image 2: Pixabay
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
15 Art Therapy Activities & Ideas for Kids (Incl. PDF)
Maybe it’s been a while, but what about the last time you doodled on your notebook during a meeting?
For many of us, when we think of art, we tend to think it’s not for us. Perhaps you think you aren’t very creative, but there’s more to it than merely being ‘good at drawing.’
Allowing our brains the freedom for free expression, even by doodling, can have a wonderful impact on how we process, retain, and share information.
It’s no surprise that the therapy community has taken note of this, and in more recent years, there’s been a rise in the number of practitioners offering a very distinct form of therapy: art therapy.
Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free . These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
This Article Contains:
What is art therapy, what art therapy is not, a brief history of art therapy, 5 fun art therapy ideas and activities for children and teens (+pdfs), 5 art therapy exercises and techniques for adults, 5 helpful art therapy activities for anxiety, 5 art therapy books to read, how to become an art therapist, how to find an art therapist near you, a take-home message.
Art therapy is a blended field of therapeutic practice that combines art and psychology, utilizing the creative process, artistic techniques, and external artwork to support individuals to develop self-awareness, explore emotions, and address unresolved conflict or trauma.
Art therapy has also been used to help individuals, particularly young children, develop social skills and raise self-confidence. It’s a fantastic addition to positive psychology, as at its core, it seeks to help individuals overcome emotional or psychological challenges to achieve a greater sense of personal wellbeing.
A broader definition of art therapy has been established by the American Art Therapy Association (2013):
Art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.
Most recently, there has been a rise in what is often referred to as mindfulness coloring . Some people see this as a part of art therapy, but it is very distinct from accredited art therapy practice.
There are many do-it-yourself coloring apps and coloring books for adults and children that promote coloring as a form of self-care or mindfulness. While these activities can certainly be helpful for many, unless a licensed art therapist has designed them, they cannot be considered art therapy.
As far back as there have been humans, there has been art. Just think of the original cave drawings.
Art as a therapy practice was only accepted more recently. The term ‘Art Therapy’ was coined in 1942 by Adrian Hill, a British artist, who attributed painting and drawing to his recovery from tuberculosis. However, the benefits of the practice of art for emotional health go back further than this.
In 1915, Margaret Naumburg, often referred to as the Mother of Art Therapy, established the Walden School in New York. Naumburg believed that children should be allowed creative freedom and that allowing them to pursue subjects that interested them would enable healthy development.
Naumburg wrote several influential books on the topic of art therapy, believing that when creative pursuits are seen as another form of expression, they can be used in conjunction with traditional communication to unearth repressed and unconscious memories and emotions.
Her work led others to begin exploring the field, building its reputation within the psychological community, including:
- Florence Cane, an art educator who began to use teaching methods that encouraged artistic expression and emotional creativity.
- Edith Kramer, who developed a more process-oriented art therapy approach based on psychotherapy ideas of the ego and that promoted the development of identity.
- Elnor Ulman established the first journal in the United States dedicated to art therapy, alongside one of the first training programs for psychologists wishing to train in art therapy.
Young children often rely on their limited language skills to express complex thoughts and emotions. That barrier can be breached with methods of expression they understand a little better, like drawing and coloring.
Teens can also benefit from a pressure-free, consequence-free medium for their thoughts and feelings.
Below are five possible art therapy activities and exercises for children of all ages.
1. Art therapy postcard activity
Most people would probably agree that it’s easier to express or recognize hurts and regrets when there’s the distance between yourself and the problem. This is why the postcard activity can be a good self-discovery exercise that helps answer the question, “ What would I say to someone if I didn’t have to do it face-to-face? ”
This activity can be used in one-to-one or group therapy sessions. Here’s how to conduct the activity:
- Print out the postcard by following the link above or simply create a postcard-style template to use. One side can be completely blank for drawing, and one side can be laid out with some lines for writing.
- Ask participants to reflect on a situation or person they feel or felt frustrated, angry, upset, or sad about. Spend a moment simply thinking about and reflecting on what happened, how it felt, and what they would like to let the person know about how the experience made them feel.
- On the blank side of the postcard, ask participants to draw or create a visual representation of how they felt or still feel about the experience. Explain that there is total freedom with this, and they can create anything they like with any materials.
- On the lined side of the postcard, participants can write what they would like to say if they could.
- Use what they draw and write to explore their emotions further and discuss how they might begin to work toward a healing resolution.
2. Words to live by collage
They may suppress their real character to avoid censure from their peers; this is why it’s essential for teens to identify their core values and identify who they think they are.
It’s crucial when working with teens to create coping strategies that they can come back over to time and let them know that their ideas, feelings, and values will change with experience.
The Words to Live By activity helps teens to visualize their core values through creative collage. Here’s how to teach this activity:
You will need:
- Old magazines, newspapers, picture books, and scrap paper
- Markers and colored pencils
- Scissors and glue
- Cardboard or thick paper for the base of the collage
- This activity can be carried out with a group or one-to-one
- Asking participants to take a moment to reflect on their core values. For younger teens, you may want to discuss what we mean by values by asking them what some of the things they feel strongly about are. What do they feel good about when they practice certain behaviors or see others behave?
- Once participants have a good idea of their values, invite them to take a mindful minute. Start by asking them to close their eyes and turn their focus to their breath. Now ask them to let the words associated with their values freely flow into their thoughts. What are these words? What are the related images, colors, and shapes that feel connected to these words?
- Once participants feel ready, invite them to begin selecting images, words, phrases, or colors from the magazines and newspapers. They will use these to compile a collage that they feel reflects their words to live by. This can be image based or entirely abstract; it’s all about how their words make them feel.
- If they feel comfortable, save some time at the end of the session for them to present their collages and share with the group what they have created and what it means to them.
3. Softness project
Humans are all tactile creatures, but children especially are touchers, explorers, and curious feelers. Utilizing touch is a way for them to learn about the world and to find comfort.
The activity below is a form of art therapy that focuses on using comforting textures and allowing for a manageable exploration of uncomfortable emotions. It is a particularly useful activity with younger children.
This activity can be carried out with a group or one-to-one.
Here’s how to conduct the activity:
- Various pieces of different fabric, textured materials, and soft textiles
- Cardboard or thick paper for the base
- Start the session by asking participants about their sense of touch. Invite them to share their ideas around things that feel good, things that don’t feel right, and why. What are some of the things they enjoy touching? What materials do they find comforting and nurturing?
- Explain that touch is an important sensory experience, and we can use it to create things that bring us comfort and a sense of calm.
- Allow participants to explore the box of different materials and take their time selecting pieces they enjoy.
- Next, they can create a soft collage, sticking, sewing, or tying the pieces of fabric together on the cardboard or thick paper base. Encourage them to think carefully when selecting the materials and build the collage up as much as they like, creating a pillow-like sculpture.
- If using this activity with an older group, you could give more direct instructions such as using the materials to depict an event that is painful for them, a person with whom they have painful conflict, or a part of themselves they’re unhappy with.
With this project, participants are softened by the act of collage, rendering painful things into pleasant things.
In a group with young children, we recommend using materials like glue sticks and having pre-cut pieces of material ready.
4. Build a safe place
This is an activity that’s adaptable for all age groups, but may be a sensitive project for kids and young adults who often have little control of their environments and struggle to ever feel safe.
This project may help a child or teen reflect on ways to find a safe space or may simply help them feel like they have some control over their environment. It can be conducted one-to-one or in small groups.
Here’s how to carry out the activity.
- Safe building materials such as cardboard boxes of different shapes and sizes, popsicle sticks, colored cardboard, pipe-cleaners, markers or colored pencils, glitter, and sequins
You can tailor the materials you use depending on the age group you are working with. The idea is to provide them with as much as possible so they can get creative.
- Ask participants to think about a space that makes them feel safe. Then ask them to reflect on what it is about this particular space that makes them feel that way. Is it bright and sunny or dark and calming? How does it smell? What can they see, hear, and touch when they are in their safe space? If they don’t have one or can’t think of one, ask them similar questions but geared toward what they think would make them feel safe.
- Next, ask participants to take a mindful minute. Have them close their eyes and focus on their breathing. Then bring to mind their safe space, real or imagined, and visualize what this looks like. How does it feel to be in their safe space? What emotions can they sense?
- When participants are comfortable, ask them to explore the various materials and to recreate their safe space. This could be in any format they like, whether a flat drawing or a sculpture; give them as much creative freedom as possible.
- When they have finished and if they feel comfortable, ask them to share their creations with the group, describing the different parts of their safe space. These can be used to create an ongoing dialogue about safe environments and how they might create something like this in real life.
5. Color your feelings
This set of three worksheets includes exercises for children to express their emotions or define the things they care about. It’s a very quick and easy exercise that can help participants create helpful visual representations of the things they value.
The worksheets include an empty outline of a heart.
Here’s how to use it.
- The printed worksheets
- Glitter, sequins, and glue (if desired)
- Ask participants to take a moment to reflect on the things that make their heart happy. What things make them feel good? What words would they use to describe these things? What images and colors come to mind when they think about these things?
- Provide participants with the worksheets and ask them to fill the heart with what they have just been thinking and talking about. They can create these in any way they like, focusing on one thing or filling the heart with as many things as they want.
- Use what they create as a discussion point to help them better understand the things that make their heart happy. How often do these things happen for them? How can they and you work together to create more of these happy moments?
Often, in dealing with adult problems, it’s even harder to articulate what hurts and why.
Distress from pent-up emotions and complex experiences that need articulation is an especially common experience for people in caring professions.
Art therapy is a promising therapy for end-of-life caretakers, helping them feel competent, develop emotionally focused coping skills, and increase emotional awareness – an essential skill to prevent burnout (Potash, Chan, Ho, Wang, & Cheng, 2015).
Caring professionals especially need the defense against burnout that art therapy can provide, but any adult is susceptible to burnout and could use the coping skills taught through art therapy.
Below are five activities for adults that can provide an opportunity to help them better understand themselves. Some of them are for use with clients addressing a specific area, and others are more generally therapeutic.
While these exercises might not be facilitated by a professional art therapist, many of them were developed and used by art therapists and can still make a difference for the individual seeking release.
1. Unmasked – Expressive Art Therapy Directive
This activity was created for people who struggle with eating disorders or have body image problems. People with these conditions often create masks to hide behind that can operate as distractions from other issues, keep others from seeing their suffering, or keep them from seeing their own dysfunction.
This expressive arts therapy activity involves creating masks that help explore the participants’ symbolic masks. Creating masks can be done individually or in a group setting.
The activity can help participants discover suppressed parts of themselves, uncover new coping strategies that aren’t food or body related, and confront a fear of what would happen if the body- and food-focused mask was removed (Schwartz, 2017).
Depending on your resources, you could help participants to make plaster masks from scratch or purchase some pre-made blank masks.
If making plaster masks from scratch, keep in mind that there is a drying time between layers of plaster, so this activity would need to be carried out throughout several sessions. If you are seeking to deliver a one-off workshop activity, the pre-made masks might work best. Other materials to use could include:
- Feathers, pipe cleaners, pieces of different fabric and materials
- Glitter and sequins
- Explain to participants the concept of masks and how each of us might have unconscious masks that we often hide behind. Encourage participants to reflect on their own experiences of this. When do they think they hide behind a mask? What triggers their hiding? What would that mask look like if it were real?
- Next, ask participants to engage in a mindful minute. Have them close their eyes and focus on their breathing. Encourage them to allow thoughts of their mask to enter their mind. Ask them to think about what their ‘best face’ mask might look like, the one they want people to see rather than the one they hide behind to cover up their food or body-related behaviors. What would that mask look like?
- Provide them with the masks and materials. Encourage them to create their ‘best face’ mask.
- When their masks are complete, they could use them to further role-play their ideas about themselves and issues represented by the different masks they wear.
2. The lighthouse
For those who feel lost, overwhelmed, or isolated, expressing those feelings and visualizing hope can be a therapeutic and beautiful way to identify needs, feel hope for the future, and realize where they are on a specific journey.
The activity involves imagining being lost at sea and visualizing the ideal lighthouse that would provide the right kind of guidance. This is a great activity for both children and adults, but an older group or individual might better appreciate the depth and symbolism of the project.
Here are the instructions.
- Plain or colored paper
- Start with a basic guided meditation. Ask participants to sit comfortably, close their eyes, and turn their focus to their breathing. Allow a minute or two for participants to clear their minds and become settled.
- As participants continue to meditate and relax, explain that it is common for all of us at points in our life to feel lost, isolated, or overwhelmed. It can be a scary time, and we often think there is no way out, but there is usually always a light to help guide us back to safety.
- Next, start to tell participants a story. They have been out on a boat on a clear day, but as the day progressed, the weather has taken a turn for the worse. The sky has darkened, the sea is black and choppy. It is cold, and water is flowing into the boat. They have lost their way and are unsure of how they will find their way back again. But, in the distance, they see a lighthouse showing them the way to safety. They must head toward the lighthouse.
- Bring participants out of their meditation and provide them with the materials. Instruct them to draw, color, or paint a lighthouse as a source of guidance. Encourage them to depict themselves in relation to the lighthouse somewhere in the image and to add words that represent sources of guidance in their life.
3. The self-care box
Affirmation and inspiration are the keys to the self-care box . It can be comforting to have something small, tangible, and beautiful in times of trouble. This is a simple activity that can have impactful results in times of need.
The box can be used as a resource, and its ongoing creation can be therapeutic for the participant.
Here’s how to make a self-care box.
You can ask participants to make their own box out of cardboard, or you can find small, plain, and inexpensive wooden boxes from many arts and crafts stores. Whichever you choose, you will also need:
- Glitter, sequins, pieces of materials like lace, etc.
- Old magazines, newspapers, or picture books
- Ask participants to reflect on their ideas of self-care. What does it mean to them? What are some of the things, behaviors, people, or activities that help them feel good about themselves and that feel like self-care?
- Encourage them to think about the emotions, feelings, words, images, and colors that these ideas for self-care evoke within them.
- Next, provide them with the boxes and materials. Tell them that these self-care boxes will be used to store small trinkets, souvenirs, and quotes that align with their ideas of self-care.
- Participants can then decorate their boxes to best align with their ideas of self-care. Encourage them to decorate or line the box with positive affirmations. These can be self-generated, generated by group members, or found online. These can also be simply folded and put into the box to be read when needed.
- Use the box for items that provide comfort, like worry stones, pictures of friends or family, clips of quotes or poetry, pressed flowers, or treasured jewelry or mementos. They might even leave some movie or massage gift cards in the box that can be used when they feel drained and in need of self-care.
You can share these quotes with them for inspiration:
- Best Therapy Quotes
- Best Coaching Quotes
- Emotional Intelligence Quotes
- Happiness Quotes
4. The poem collage
Self-criticism can make the act of creation challenging, and finding the words to express your feelings can often be difficult because you’re self-conscious of how inadequate the expressions can feel.
By creating a poem from a pool of words collected from sources like magazines, newspapers, and old books, you can create an un-self-conscious poem that molds pre-existing words to your feelings.
Here’s how to make a poem collage . This activity can be carried out with a group or one-to-one
- Explain the concept of self-talk to participants, and how when we talk negatively to ourselves, it can significantly impact our mood, emotions, and feelings of growth and happiness.
- Encourage a discussion around how and when participants are self-critical of themselves and when they engage in self-talk. Ask them to reflect on whether their loved ones would say these things about them. What would their loved ones say about them instead?
- Provide participants with the materials and encourage them to create their own word/poem collage filled with positive affirmations and kind words they would like to associate more with themselves.
- Let participants be as freely creative as they want, including images and colors that also make them feel good.
- When they have finished, instruct them to take this home and place it somewhere they look every day. Encourage them to spend 3–5 minutes each morning or evening taking in what they have created and build these positive words and images into their day.
- If a project like this is used in a group or therapy setting, practitioners could ask the participants about their word choices, chosen themes, or interpretations of the poems (Frank, 2014).
5. The family sculpture
The family sculpture exercise is a popular art therapy activity that exists in many other therapy types, such as family therapy , though in a modified form. It is enlightening for clients to mold their family in a way that represents the members and the dynamics, and it helps them identify problems in relationships that otherwise might be ignored.
It is a great activity to use with adults, where family dynamics and relationships are more ingrained, to bring awareness to how these things impact our thought processes.
- Simple modeling clay, Play-Doh, etc.
- Explain to participants that our families have a significant role in our lives. From an early age, the ways we engage with our families shape how we go on to engage as adults and within other relationships. It’s important to reflect on our family dynamics to understand how and why we might communicate in the ways we do so we can better work to change the ways that might be negative.
- Provide participants with the material, and ask them to shape and mold members of their family. A useful way to direct this activity can be to encourage participants to create abstract shapes or use other objects to represent certain family members.
- Next, ask participants to position the family members in ways or scenarios that they feel best to reflect the family dynamics more generally.
- Participants can then be encouraged to discuss the shapes or objects they have chosen and why. Try to go deeper to uncover what these shapes represent. If used in a full therapy session, participants could also use the figures to conduct a role-play, which can then be discussed with the therapist to uncover deeper thoughts and ideas about their family relationships (Malchiodi, 2010).
Anxiety is experienced differently by different people and can range from low to severe. The range of symptoms experienced is also extensive, which means for many people, it often goes undiagnosed. Developing positive coping strategies and understanding how anxiety shows up in your life and what triggers an anxious response are crucial for managing anxiety.
One of the most enlightening parts of art therapy is the process of creation, which can be just as revealing as the final product. However, for people with anxiety, there may be an intense need to finish the creative process and create a universally appealing final product.
For people with anxiety, self-discovery and healthy coping mechanisms are essential, and art therapy techniques are among the healthiest ways to deal with some of the symptoms and experiences of living with anxiety.
Below are five art therapy activities, specifically designed to support individuals with anxiety .
1. The panic book
People with an anxious panic disorder can spiral into a panic just thinking about the possibility of having a panic attack. Panic attacks can have many triggers, sometimes known, but often not.
The panic book activity encourages participants to create a book full of images that help them keep calm during stressful situations and help refocus their mind onto something more positive.
- Artist sketchbooks or blank notebooks
- Magazines, newspapers, old picture books, etc.
- Any other craft materials participants might use to create their book. For example, you could download some affirmation images from the internet or ask participants to bring a selection of photographs that are meaningful for them.
- Open the activity with a discussion about how the individuals feel about their panic attacks. Demonstrate empathy and let them know they are not alone in their experiences. Today’s activity will help them to create a resource to support them during anxious times.
- Provide each participant with a blank sketchbook/notebook. Tell them this will become their panic book, and within it, they are going to create a reserve of images and words that help them to feel calm.
- Allow participants to use all the materials provided to begin creating their panic book. They can do this however they choose, but if someone feels stuck, encourage them to perhaps start by creating a theme for different sections of their book, such as the beach, favorite places and people, or nature scenes.
- Participants do not need to fill the entire sketchbook in one session. It is something they can come back to over time and add to as they find more words and images that evoke feelings of calm and comfort for them.
- Encourage them to keep this book close with them, so if they feel a moment of panic approaching, they can refer to it as a resource to help distract them and focus on the things that evoke calm emotions.
2. What anxiety looks like
Understanding and visualizing anxiety can be a pivotal first step in controlling and treating it.
Representing anxiety as an abstract concept, person, or even a monster can help participants develop strategies to recognize it when they feel it coming on and deal with it appropriately. This activity allows participants to do just that.
Here’s how to do the activity.
- Paints and easels
- Collage materials
- Sculpting clay
- Miscellaneous materials such as fabrics and textures
- Scissors, paper, and glue
- Introduce the concept of the workshop activity by discussing anxiety more generally. Ask participants to reflect on the idea that anxiety is mostly an unseen thing, but what if we could see it? What would it look like?
- Ask participants to take a mindful minute to reflect on these questions. Ask them to close their eyes and focus on their breathing. Now, have them turn their thoughts to their anxiety. If they had to describe it, where would they begin? Does it have a body, a head, and limbs, or is it more abstract? What shape does it take? Is it tall, short, skinny, fat? What color is it?
- Next, ask them to reflect on the personality of the anxiety. Does it talk, or is it silent? What does it care about? How does it express its cares?
- Once participants are comfortable, provide them with the materials, and ask them to recreate their anxiety. They can use any medium they feel comfortable with.
- When participants have completed their creation, have them discuss the appearance and personality of the anxiety or journal about what they’ve discovered (Tartakovsky, 2015).
3. Visual starter
Art therapy for anxiety can be counterproductive in clients who are anxious about creating art.
The visual starter exercise is a way around this, helping individuals to get started without being self-conscious. The starters can be adapted to specific prompts or used solely for healthy stress-relieving creation.
Here’s how to use visual starters for art therapy.
- Printouts of the ‘Starters’ PDFs located via the link above
- Introduce the activity to participants, explaining that it is focused solely on their interpretations and creative process and is not about any artistic skill. There is no right or wrong way to complete the activity.
- Provide participants with the printout worksheet and drawing materials, and encourage them to take a moment to reflect on what the shape inspires in them. If needed, you can help them through a short mindfulness/visualization activity to help calm their mind and create some ideas.
- For any participants who get stuck, encourage them to take a break and have a discussion around potential inspiration ideas for the shapes.
- If applicable, talk about what the final result represents. It’s possible that participants simply drew to experience the relief of focused creation that erases present-moment anxiety.
4. Creating mindfulness beads
Similar to a worry stone or fidget cube, mindfulness beads can be a simple, cheap coping mechanism that are fun to create and easy to carry around.
Here’s how to make and use mindfulness beads . There are a few ways to create mindfulness beads, depending on who you complete the workshop with and your skill level.
- Purchase a mixture of beads
- Find some old jewelry at home or from a thrift store that you can take apart
- Use simple oven-bake modeling clay to make the beads
You will also need:
- Some string or leather strands to add the beads to
- Explain the concept of mindfulness to participants, if they are unfamiliar with it, and talk them through a short introductory mindfulness exercise. Ask them to close their eyes, and focus on their breathing, feeling each breath as they slowly inhale and exhale.
- Then, explain the concept of mindfulness beads and that you will be creating them. Mindfulness beads can be used during times of anxiety as something to refocus their mind and create a distraction from anxious thoughts while they practice mindfulness.
- Provide participants with whichever option of creating their own beads you have chosen. Ask them to take a moment to think about the colors they find most enjoyable and what textures they might like to feel when trying to distract themselves.
- They can use the beads and string to create a keychain, bracelet, or necklace, whichever they feel would be most helpful for them.
- When finished, advise that when using the beads, they can simply reflect on the overall appearance and texture, or they can touch and focus on one bead at a time, assigning meaning and using each bead as a prompt for meditation.
5. Zentangle drawing
Zentangle was created with the promise that anyone can do it, even if they don’t think they can draw well enough to create something beautiful. Drawing Zentangles creates a feeling of accomplishment and helps to pass the time in a thoughtful, healing way.
Here’s how to draw Zentangles.
- Plain paper
- Instruct participants to take a moment to feel gratitude and express appreciation for the materials and the opportunity to create something beautiful. Remind them that the activity is not about artistic skill or who can draw better than anyone else. There are no right or wrong ways to complete the activity.
- Provide each participant with paper and their choice of markers/pencils. Ask them to draw four dots, one in each corner, so the page is no longer blank and intimidating.
- Next, instruct them to connect the dots by drawing a light border around the edges of the paper, creating a square.
- Within that square, they can draw lines that divide the paper into different sections. They can do this any way they like, creating as many different shapes as they like.
- Now that they have a square filled with shapes, ask them to pick one shape and to begin filling it in with more defined shapes, strokes, dashes, lines, or dots, keeping within the pre-drawn border. Tell them to move around the page filling in each shape with its own unique set of shapes, lines, and strokes. They can be as creative as they like with this, rotating the paper to suit their free-flowing creativity.
- Advise participants this is their creative piece to shade in different ways and use different colors if they would like to.
- Participants keep going until they have filled the entire page.
Whether you’re looking for additional education on art therapy or exercises and activities for yourself or clients, there are plenty of resources out there.
Below I’ve picked five of my favorite books that are well worth looking into if you’re interested in art therapy.
1. Art Therapy Sourcebook – Cathy Malchiodi
She defines ways to perform art therapy yourself and how to interpret the results.
Malchiodi also has a growing legacy of art therapy publications that would benefit the casual learner and professional alike.
Available on Amazon .
2. Art as Therapy: Collected Papers – Edith Kramer
This collection of papers touches on many topics relating to therapy, art, society, and clinical practice.
As it is slightly more academic focused, with an overview of previous and current research, it is an excellent resource for those considering entering the field of art therapy as a profession.
3. Art Therapy Techniques and Applications – Susan Buchalter
The book contains exercises that combine many different art mediums with mindfulness exercises and counseling applications.
4. The Book of Zentangle – Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas
It’s a foundational educational source on the development of the Zentangle and includes completed Zentangles for inspiration.
The authors describe it as a left brain/right brain resource for conjoining pictures and words.
5. 100 Magnificent Mandalas: Adult Coloring Book Vol. 1 – Jade Summer
Although not considered an authentic art therapy resource in research terms, a coloring book full of meditative mandala patterns could be a worthy investment for reducing anxiety and practicing art therapy as part of a self-care regime.
You can also find a list of the 16 best therapy books here.
It is still gaining traction, but positive psychology research has shown that when combined with other therapies, art therapy has great success in treating disorders, garnering it a great deal of respect and making it an ever-growing field.
If you’re interested in becoming a licensed art therapist, do some research about what regions would recognize your license once it’s obtained.
Most importantly, research art therapy thoroughly and find out what art therapists from around the world love about the job as well as the challenges that come with it.
Art therapists tend to focus their work with either adults or children and can work in a range of settings, including hospitals, care facilities, and schools.
If you think art therapy is the right career choice for you, then here are some steps you can take toward becoming an art therapist:
- If you haven’t already, obtain a bachelor’s degree in behavioral or social science that will prepare you for work at the master’s level.
- To be an accredited art therapist, you will have to seek acceptance into the appropriate association for your region. Pathways to gaining accreditation can vary, so research what this might look like for yourself. Making an appointment with a career advisor or university course advisor can also help shed some light on the best educational pathway to pursue.
- Become familiar and comfortable with art and its many expressions, alongside your required learning to practice therapy.
- Gain appropriate work experience, whether paid or unpaid, so you can begin building your professional skills and knowledge. Seek out mentors and other qualified therapists in the field that you can learn from.
- Reach out to local hospitals, assisted living centers, psychiatric hospitals, detention centers, or schools to find out about needs in these communities for licensed counselors with your skills.
The internet has opened up many useful avenues for finding professionals that specialize in specific therapy or counseling needs. Thankfully, there are many directories of art therapists that can be searched by postal code.
Some directories that can be searched by location and that include art therapists are:
- Art Therapy Credentials Board
- British Association of Art Therapists
- Psychology Today
If your region currently recognizes art therapy as a viable counseling option, then it likely has a local art therapy association with a directory of licensed professionals local to you.
Finally, it’s common to wonder whether your insurance will even cover treatment by an art therapist. Generally, the best way to find out is to call your insurance provider. It might be able to refer you to an art therapist in your area who’s covered by your insurance.
I hope after reading this article, you’ve found a deeper appreciation for art therapy as a practice and the range of resources available to you as an individual or practitioner that can be easily implemented with a variety of clients.
Working with young people, I know how important it is to encourage their creativity at any possible moment, and I regularly utilize collage as an expressive form to help my students tap into their ideas. These visual representations always instigate some fantastic group discussions and one-to-one dialogues that the students and I find valuable.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s that art therapy can be used by absolutely anyone. There is no prerequisite of artistic skill. The more you tap into your creative process, the more comfortable you’ll feel with how you choose to express yourself through artistic methods.
Have you used any art therapy activities in your practice, either personally or with clients? Which ones did you use and how did it go? I’d love to hear all about your experiences in the comments below.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free .
- American Art Therapy Association. (2013). What is art therapy? Retrieved from http://www.arttherapy.org/upload/whatisarttherapy.pdf
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2017). Facts & statistics. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
- Buchalter, S. I. (2009). Art therapy techniques and applications. Jessica Kingsley.
- Curry, N., & Kasser, T. (2005). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? Art Therapy: Journal of American Art Therapy Association, 22 (2), 81–85.
- Frank, P. (2014). 10 Easy art therapy techniques to help you destress. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/07/art-therapy-techniques_n_6103092.html
- Kramer, E. (2001). Art as therapy (Collected papers). Jessica Kingsley.
- Malchiodi, C. (2006). Art therapy sourcebook. McGraw-Hill Education.
- Malchiodi, C. (2010). Cool art therapy intervention #9: Family sculpture. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/arts-and-health/201002/cool-art-therapy-intervention-9-family-sculpture
- Potash, J. S., Chan, F., Ho, A. H. Y., Wang, X. L., & Cheng, C. (2015). A model for art therapy-based supervision for end-of-life care workers in Hong Kong. Death Studies, 39 , 44–51.
- Roberts, R., & Thomas, M. (n.d.). The book of Zentangle. King Printing.
- Schwartz, D. (2017). Unmasked: Expressive arts therapy directive. Art Therapy Blog. Retrieved from http://www.arttherapyblog.com/art-therapy-activities/unmasked/#.Wg3OchNSzeR
- Summer, J. (2016). Mandala coloring book: 100+ Unique mandala designs and stress relieving patterns for adult relaxation, meditation, and happiness. Author.
- Tartakovsky, M. (2015). 3 Art therapy techniques to deal with anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/10/19/3-art-therapy-techniques-to-deal-with-anxiety
- Zentangle. (n.d.) Get Started. Retrieved from https://zentangle.com/pages/get-started
Share this article:
What our readers think.
I didn’t care for medicine but I love Art still need irradiation of medicine and a much better support structure for Art practice. Been 37 years now 38 later on this year. Happy New Year everybody!!! -S.O.S.
The art therapy you mentioned is great. I have a blog where I upload mental health-related topics. Your readers can benefit from that blog. Here is the blog: yourmentalhealthpal.com
I am so happy that i came across this article. i am currently working on art therapy project, though i am not an art therapist by profession. but this is my area of interest and i enjoy it.
This article has provided answers to many questions, i had in my mind.
I am handling a research about an art therapy, and this is exactly I was trying to find
Thankyou so much :))
So happy to have found this. I referenced and cited this article in my college research paper on Art Therapy. I especially liked the history given here. Thanks for sharing!
Hello when was this article written
This article was first published Mar 25, 2020. 🙂
– Nicole | Community Manager
This article was amazing! I found the information to be very useful, the activities extremely easy to create, and I think I have found a new career! Thank you so much!
This is the suitable blog for anybody who desires to find out about this topic. You realize so much its virtually laborious to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, simply great!
Hi Zora, Thank you for the lovely feedback and for being a reader. We’re very glad you enjoyed the post. – Nicole | Community Manager
Long time ago, My mom kept beating me up for doing expressive activities. She wanted me to go to my room and start hurting myself, because I was expressing myself. My mom is a child Abuser. but, thank goodness she passed away in 2016. so, I could do one of your expressive activities to help cope my pain between mom abusing me, and me not being able to do anything because of the Corona-virus, which started 3 months ago in China and which started to spread around The United Kingdom, AND the United States of America. also, you got to keep ur head up when it is a struggle.
Hi Beatrice, I’m so sorry to read about your experience with your mother. It’s terrible that you experienced punishment for what is supposed to be an expressive, healthy activity. I hope you succeed in rekindling your enjoyment of art — I’d hope that that joy is something no one can take away from you. – Nicole | Community Manager
Nice overview of the field. You provided everything I was wondering about as an initial re-entry into the practice of Art Therapy. It was introduced to me a few times during my training for a Master of Arts in Counseling, and now someone in my case load needs this type of therapy.
Let us know your thoughts Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published.
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Behavior Therapy Methods: 12 Best Techniques & Worksheets
Behavior therapy originates from attempts by science and psychology to understand, predict, and control human behavior (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015). Attention is focused on observable [...]
Guided Imagery in Therapy: 20 Powerful Scripts and Techniques
Guided imagery is a complementary therapy that can be a powerful technique to use with clients who have problems articulating their inner world with words [...]
28 Best Therapy Games for Healing Through Play
Self-expression is a crucial aspect of healing through play, particularly for children, where fun activities release dopamine, providing enjoyment, focus, and the motivation to complete [...]
Read other articles by their category
- Body & Brain (41)
- Coaching & Application (49)
- Compassion (27)
- Counseling (45)
- Emotional Intelligence (23)
- Gratitude (16)
- Grief & Bereavement (21)
- Happiness & SWB (36)
- Meaning & Values (25)
- Meditation (21)
- Mindfulness (42)
- Motivation & Goals (42)
- Optimism & Mindset (33)
- Positive CBT (24)
- Positive Communication (21)
- Positive Education (41)
- Positive Emotions (28)
- Positive Psychology (33)
- Positive Workplace (38)
- Relationships (32)
- Resilience & Coping (32)
- Self Awareness (21)
- Self Esteem (38)
- Software & Apps (23)
- Strengths & Virtues (29)
- Stress & Burnout Prevention (26)
- Theory & Books (42)
- Therapy Exercises (32)
- Types of Therapy (55)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Race and Identity
- Stress Management
- Brain Health
- Online Therapy
- History and Biographies
- Student Resources
- Sleep and Dreaming
- Mental Strength
- Family & Relationships
- Anxiety & Depression
- Mental Health
- Verywell Mind Insights
- The Winter Issue
- Editorial Process
- Meet Our Review Board
- Crisis Support
What Is Art Therapy?
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
Aaron Johnson is a fact checker and expert on qualitative research design and methodology.
Blend Images - KidStock / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images
Things to consider, how to get started.
The use of artistic methods to treat psychological disorders and enhance mental health is known as art therapy. Art therapy is a technique rooted in the idea that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being.
People have been relying on the arts for communication, self-expression, and healing for thousands of years. But art therapy didn't start to become a formal program until the 1940s.
Doctors noted that individuals living with mental illness often expressed themselves in drawings and other artworks, which led many to explore the use of art as a healing strategy. Since then, art has become an important part of the therapeutic field and is used in some assessment and treatment techniques.
Types of Creative Therapies
Art therapy is not the only type of creative art used in the treatment of mental illness. Other types of creative therapies include:
- Dance therapy
- Drama therapy
- Expressive therapy
- Music therapy
- Writing therapy
The goal of art therapy is to utilize the creative process to help people explore self-expression and, in doing so, find new ways to gain personal insight and develop new coping skills.
The creation or appreciation of art is used to help people explore emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stress, boost self-esteem, and work on social skills.
Techniques used in art therapy can include:
- Doodling and scribbling
- Finger painting
- Working with clay
As clients create art, they may analyze what they have made and how it makes them feel. Through exploring their art, people can look for themes and conflicts that may be affecting their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
What Art Therapy Can Help With
Art therapy can be used to treat a wide range of mental disorders and psychological distress . In many cases, it might be used in conjunction with other psychotherapy techniques such as group therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) .
Some conditions that art therapy may be used to treat include:
- Aging-related issues
- Eating disorders
- Emotional difficulties
- Family or relationship problems
- Medical conditions
- Psychological symptoms associated with other medical issues
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Psychosocial issues
- Substance use disorder
Benefits of Art Therapy
According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, less than an hour of creative activity can reduce your stress and have a positive effect on your mental health, regardless of artistic experience or talent.
An art therapist may use a variety of art methods, including drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage with clients ranging from young children to older adults.
Clients who have experienced emotional trauma, physical violence, domestic abuse, anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues can benefit from expressing themselves creatively.
Some situations in which art therapy might be utilized include:
- Adults experiencing severe stress
- Children experiencing behavioral or social problems at school or at home
- Children or adults who have experienced a traumatic event
- Children with learning disabilities
- Individuals living with a brain injury
- People experiencing mental health problems
While research suggests that art therapy may be beneficial, some of the findings on its effectiveness are mixed. Studies are often small and inconclusive, so further research is needed to explore how and when art therapy may be most beneficial.
- In studies of adults who experienced trauma, art therapy was found to significantly reduce trauma symptoms and decrease levels of depression.
- One review of the effectiveness of art therapy found that this technique helped patients undergoing medical treatment for cancer improve their quality of life and alleviated a variety of psychological symptoms.
- One study found that art therapy reduced depression and increased self-esteem in older adults living in nursing homes.
If you or someone you love is thinking about art therapy, there are some common misconceptions and facts you should know.
You Don't Have to Be Artistic
People do not need to have artistic ability or special talent to participate in art therapy, and people of all ages including children, teens , and adults can benefit from it. Some research suggests that just the presence of art can play a part in boosting mental health.
A 2017 study found that art displayed in hospital settings contributed to an environment where patients felt safe. It also played a role in improving socialization and maintaining an identity outside of the hospital.
It's Not the Same as an Art Class
People often wonder how an art therapy session differs from an art class. Where an art class is focused on teaching technique or creating a specific finished product, art therapy is more about letting clients focus on their inner experience.
In creating art, people are able to focus on their own perceptions, imagination, and feelings. Clients are encouraged to create art that expresses their inner world more than making something that is an expression of the outer world.
Art Therapy Can Take Place in a Variety of Settings
Inpatient offices, private mental health offices, schools, and community organizations are all possible settings for art therapy services. Additionally, art therapy may be available in other settings such as:
- Art studios
- Colleges and universities
- Community centers
- Correctional facilities
- Elementary schools and high schools
- Group homes
- Homeless shelters
- Private therapy offices
- Residential treatment centers
- Senior centers
- Wellness center
- Women's shelters
If specialized media or equipment is required, however, finding a suitable setting may become challenging.
Art Therapy Is Not for Everyone
Art therapy isn’t for everyone. While high levels of creativity or artistic ability aren't necessary for art therapy to be successful, many adults who believe they are not creative or artistic might be resistant or skeptical of the process.
In addition, art therapy has not been found effective for all types of mental health conditions. For example, one meta-analysis found that art therapy is not effective in reducing positive or negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
If you think you or someone you love would benefit from art therapy, consider the following steps:
- Seek out a trained professional . Qualified art therapists will hold at least a master’s degree in psychotherapy with an additional art therapy credential. To find a qualified art therapist, consider searching the Art Therapy Credentials Board website .
- Call your health insurance . While art therapy may not be covered by your health insurance, there may be certain medical waivers to help fund part of the sessions. Your insurance may also be more likely to cover the sessions if your therapist is a certified psychologist or psychiatrist who offers creative therapies.
- Ask about their specialty . Not all art therapists specialize in all mental health conditions. Many specialize in working with people who have experienced trauma or individuals with substance use disorders, for example.
- Know what to expect . During the first few sessions, your art therapist will likely ask you about your health background as well as your current concerns and goals. They may also suggest a few themes to begin exploring via drawing, painting, sculpting, or another medium.
- Be prepared to answer questions about your art-making process . As the sessions progress, you'll likely be expected to answer questions about your art and how it makes you feel. For example: What were you thinking while doing the art? Did you notice a change of mood from when you started to when you finished? Did the artwork stir any memories?
Becoming an Art Therapist
If you are interested in becoming an art therapist, start by checking with your state to learn more about the education, training, and professional credentials you will need to practice. In most cases, you may need to first become a licensed clinical psychologist , professional counselor, or social worker in order to offer psychotherapy services.
In the United States, the Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. (ATCB) offers credentialing programs that allow art therapists to become registered, board-certified, or licensed depending upon the state in which they live and work.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, the minimum requirements:
- A master's degree in art therapy, or
- A master's degree in counseling or a related field with additional coursework in art therapy
Additional post-graduate supervised experience is also required. You can learn more about the training and educational requirements to become an art therapist on the AATA website .
Van Lith T. Art therapy in mental health: A systematic review of approaches and practices . The Arts in Psychotherapy . 2016;47:9-22. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2015.09.003
Junge MB. History of Art Therapy . The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy . Published online November 6, 2015:7-16. doi:10.1002/9781118306543.ch1
Farokhi M. Art therapy in humanistic psychiatry . Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences . 2011;30:2088-2092. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.10.406
Haen C, Nancy Boyd Webb. Creative Arts-Based Group Therapy with Adolescents: Theory and Practice . 1st ed. (Haen C, Webb NB, eds.). Routledge; 2019. doi:10.4324/9780203702000
Schouten KA, de Niet GJ, Knipscheer JW, Kleber RJ, Hutschemaekers GJM. The effectiveness of art therapy in the treatment of traumatized adults . Trauma, Violence, & Abuse . 2014;16(2):220-228. doi:10.1177/1524838014555032
Gall DJ, Jordan Z, Stern C. Effectiveness and meaningfulness of art therapy as a tool for healthy aging: a comprehensive systematic review protocol . JBI Evidence Synthesis . 2015;13(3):3-17. doi:10.11124/jbisrir-2015-1840
Lefèvre C, Ledoux M, Filbet M. Art therapy among palliative cancer patients: Aesthetic dimensions and impacts on symptoms . Palliative and Supportive Care . 2015;14(4):376-380. doi:10.1017/s1478951515001017
Hunter M. Art therapy and eating disorders . In: Gussak DE, Rosal ML, eds. The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy . John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2015:387-396. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118306543.ch37
Schmanke L. Art therapy and substance abuse . The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy . Published online November 6, 2015:361-374. doi:10.1002/9781118306543.ch35
Kaimal G, Ray K, Muniz J. Reduction of cortisol levels and participants’ responses following art making . Art Therapy . 2016;33(2):74-80. doi:10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832
Gussak DE, Rosal ML, eds. The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy . 1st ed. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2015. doi:10.1002/9781118306543
Regev D, Cohen-Yatziv L. Effectiveness of art therapy with adult clients in 2018—what progress has been made? Front Psychol . 2018;9. doi:10.3389%2Ffpsyg.2018.01531
Regev D, Cohen-Yatziv L. Effectiveness of art therapy with adult clients in 2018—what progress has been made? . Front Psychol . 2018;9:1531. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01531
Ching-Teng Y, Ya-Ping Y, Yu-Chia C. Positive effects of art therapy on depression and self-esteem of older adults in nursing homes . Social Work in Health Care . 2019;58(3):324-338. doi:10.1080/00981389.2018.1564108
Nielsen SL, Fich LB, Roessler KK, Mullins MF. How do patients actually experience and use art in hospitals? The significance of interaction: a user-oriented experimental case study . International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being . 2017;12(1):1267343. doi:10.1080/17482631.2016.1267343
Gussak DE. Art therapy in the prison milieu . In: Gussak DE, Rosal ML, eds. The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy . John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2015:478-486. doi:10.1002/9781118306543.ch46
Stuckey HL, Nobel J. The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature . Am J Public Health . 2010;100(2):254-63. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497
Bird J. Art therapy, arts-based research and transitional stories of domestic violence and abuse . International Journal of Art Therapy . 2018;23(1):14-24. doi:10.1080/17454832.2017.1317004
Laws KR, Conway W. Do adjunctive art therapies reduce symptomatology in schizophrenia? A meta-analysis . WJP . 2019;9(8):107-120. doi:10.5498/wjp.v9.i8.107
About The Credentials | Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. ATCB. https://www.atcb.org/about-the-credentials/
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018: 29-1125 Recreational Therapists .
Nielsen SL, Fich LB, Roessler KK, Mullins MF. How do patients actually experience and use art in hospitals? The significance of interaction: a user-oriented experimental case study. Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2017;12(1):1267343. doi:10.1080/17482631.2016.1267343
By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Personality, organisational psychology, art therapy activities pdf (5).
This blog mentions some of the best art therapy activities PDF.
Before we move on to art therapy activities, let’s have an overview of art therapy.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is also helpful for children in developing social skills and increasing self-confidence.
According to the American Art Therapy Association (2013):
Art Therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.
Art therapy can be applied to any individual either an artist or non-professionals.
There are no right or wrong answers in art therapy . Art therapy is a way of exploring and evaluating oneself.
Art Therapy Activities
Art therapy activities can be practice for increasing awareness about self, identifying emotions, enhancing problem-solving skills, and so forth.
The following are some of the most effective art therapy activities that are helpful in various fields of life.
1. Art Therapy Postcard Activity
It gives an opportunity for individuals to acknowledge what they would say to other people in times when they do not have to face them.
Close analyze the event, your thoughts and feelings on the event, and the leading behavior.
You are supposed to use the blank side of the postcard to reflect your feelings in that situation in the form of drawing, while on the line page you are supposed to write something about that event if you want to.
Then the practitioners or the therapist will study the postcard, identify the conflicts being faced by the individual, and work with him on resolving these conflicts.
The postcard template can be downloaded in the form of a PDF from the therapistaid.com website.
2. Unmasked – Expressive Art Therapy Directive
Such people often hide their true feelings and thoughts from others behind a mask to prevent others from peering into their sufferings.
It allows them to find out effective coping strategies for dealing with their issues.
Other things you need for this activity include color pens, feathers, beads, or other decorative material, glitter and sequins, Glue, and Scissors.
They ask to make this mask in its real form.
Once this activity is completed, the individuals can role-play their ideas and mention the issues they face while wearing each kind of mask.
You can download the mask templates from here .
3. Create a Family Sculpture
The things which are required for this activity include clay, some fabric, and other decorative things.
4. Color in a Design
Colour in a design is a very effective activity based on art therapy. The therapy is good for practicing relaxation.
Drawing and painting randomly can be a very effective tool for relaxing mind.
5. Collage your vision of a Perfect Day
All you have to do is to brainstorm what can make your day a perfect one and make a collage out of it.
6. Draw yourself as a Superhero
Draw yourself as a superhero activity allows individuals to reflect their opinions, thoughts, and feelings about a superhero in the form of a drawing.
People resonate with the themes in the stories, with the dilemmas and problems that superheroes face, and they aspire to their noble impulses and heroic acts.
7. Gratitude Jar Activity
For this activity, you need to take an empty jar and some paper strips.
All you have to do is to write down three good things that happened to you, on a paper strip given in the worksheet, fold the strip and put it into the gratitude jar.
The gratitude activity can be accessed from here . You can also download it in the form of a PDF for your convenience.
8. Mask Project for Art Therapy
For this activity, you need to take an art therapy mask and some colors, paints, or other art tools.
Use some old magazines for making a collage. Now what have to do in this activity is to reflect on the one side of the mask that you think other people think about you, and on the backside reflect yourself as you think you are.
After this, the clients are supposed to share and discuss their masks.
This activity is very helpful for individuals and determining their true selves.
9. Coat of Arms / Family Crest
This is a very interesting activity that allows individuals to draw, paint, or sketch, some of their qualities in the four quadrants of the shield.
This interesting activity is found to be very effective for teens but adults can also enjoy this activity.
10. Picture Frame Art Project
This activity helps individuals in developing a positive self-image, identifying needs, and developing goals, improving insight.
After this, they ask to draw an image of their dream life and another 3 pictures that represent their present, past, and future.
Art Therapy Activities at Home
Here are some great Art therapy activities to do at home, depending on what your condition is at the moment.
You can also Finger paint, when you feel too overwhelmed, and this art therapy activity can easily be done at home in your own comfortable space.
Another great art therapy at home is making line art, which is considered to be the simplest and most basic aspects of art, but it can also contain a lot of emotion. You can find examples of this at home Art Therapy activity here .
Art Therapy Activities For Autism
One might also find that art therapies for autism may help in the following ways:
Furthermore, it has been seen that this art therapy activity for autism can help tremendously with restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior because when children peel sections and introduce colors of their choosing, they can create a masterpiece at their own pace, and they do not need to communicate for this.
Art Therapy Activities for Adults
This art therapy activity for adults is meant for anyone that feels lost and needs help coming back to themselves, and therefore, may be suggested to anyone that feels lost, overwhelmed, or isolated, and it may help the person to express those feelings and visualize hope, as well as identify needs, feel hope for the future, and realize where they are on a specific journey.
Other Materials the person may need for this art therapy activity for adults are as follows:
The art therapist might reflect in the story of how the person may be unsure of how they will find their way back again but they eventually see a light in the distance that is coming from a lighthouse which is showing them the way to safety and it tapers off towards the person heading towards the lighthouse, and after that, the art therapist needs to bring the person slowly out of their meditative state, and towards the reality.
The person is then provided with the materials mentioned before for the next part of this art therapy for adults, and they may then be instructed to draw, color, or paint a lighthouse as a source of guidance.
Art Therapy Activities for Kids
The best types of art therapy activities for kids can help with many problems, like depression, anxiety, not being able to express oneself and so on, and kids who are having academic problems at school may particularly benefit from engaging in a fun activity for a change, one that does not involve dependence or expectation of grades or results.
They may also be asked what words they might use to describe these things that make them happy or if they could draw them, what would they draw?
Art Therapy Activities for Anxiety
Art therapy activities for anxiety can often make use of things that allow the person to act in a physical way, like working with their hands in some way, or doing things that allow them to release some of their pent up autonomic arousal.
If someone has trouble understanding this art therapy activity for anxiety they may be asked to focus on the physical symptoms of anxiety and try to narrow down what they look like if the person really tried to imagine.
Prompts for this art therapy activity for anxiety may include things like, Does it have a body and a head and limbs, or is it more abstract? What shape does it take? Is it tall, short, skinny, fat? What color is it?
Art Therapy Activities for Teens
Some of the best art therapy activities for teens may therefore include the following:
Art Therapy Activities for ADHD
Some great art therapy activities for ADHD involve:
Any art therapy activity for ADHD needs to ensure that the attention of the child is held during the activity and it should help them focus their energies on the activity alone, maybe even make use of their excess energy through it.
A good example of an art therapy for ADHD is Ripped Paper Collage for which the materials needed are just some paper, pencils or pens and glue.
Then, these pieces of paper will be used to make a collage or another piece of art that makes them feel happy, like a heart or something else they enjoy, and this art therapy activity for ADHD can thus teach the child to transition from unpleasant to pleasant emotions in a constructive way.
Art Therapy Activities for Addiction Recovery
Art therapy activities for grief and loss, art therapy activities for dementia, art therapy activities for special needs, mindfulness art therapy activities, art therapy worksheets, art therapy techniques and applications pdf.
Art therapy techniques and applications support the belief that all individuals have the capacity to express themselves creatively and that the product is less important than the therapeutic process involved.
Expressive Art Therapy Activities
Expressive art therapy activities have been linked to the traditions and cultural precedents of world healing practices because they frequently involve the integration of all the arts.
While most people might know what some expressive art therapy activities are, the formal definition might not be as well-known, because while some characterize expressive arts therapy as the inclusion of any of the arts therapies; art, music, dance/movement, drama, and poetry/writing. Thus, using one or more of these therapies in work with individuals or groups is defined as expressive arts therapy.
Child Art Therapy Activities
Art therapy ideas for self-esteem, recommended books and amazon tools.
We hope you will benefit from this blog. If you have any queries or questions regarding this blog, let us know through your comments.
Other mental health worksheets
15 Art Therapy Activities, Exercises & Ideas for Children and Adults by Elaine Mead (2020)
Best heavy duty dog crate for separation anxiety (15+ list), doki doki literature club depression (what is it), why am i such a lser 7 tips to not feel like a loser, how long does it take for the increased dose of lexapro to work, i statement worksheets (7), do you experience anxiety about spending money, dropping out of college due to mental health (a complete guide), anime with depressed main character (7+ list), dementors: a metaphor for depression, natrol stress and anxiety (a brief guide), acupressure for anxiety (a comprehensive guide), everything about meps depression waiver, can a person with a history of depression be a pilot, does calmigo really work (+7 features of calmigo), being laid off and depression (+how to cope), what is first job anxiety.
The perfect tummy control bodysuit, a popcorn gadget, more bestsellers — starting at $8
- Share this —
- Watch Full Episodes
- Read With Jenna
- TODAY Table
- Citi Music Series
- Pets & Animals
- Asian American Voices
- Black Voices
- Latino Voices
- LGBTQ Voices
- Listen All Day
Art therapy isn't just for kids: Here's how it can help you
Have you ever caught yourself doodling during a work meeting and realized it actually made you feel calmer? As it turns out, creativity actually has healing powers.
That’s why there’s a whole profession dedicated to using art to help with mental health . It’s called art therapy, and while it’s been around for a while, it’s been growing in popularity.
Margaret Carlock-Russo, president of the American Art Therapy Association and associate professor and program coordinator, expressive arts therapy at Prescott College, told TMRW that, especially in stressful times, people naturally turn to art when they’re seeking relief.
For example, people have been creating murals and artwork for the protests surrounding racial justice . “That, to me, speaks to the deep human need to express ourselves,” Carlock-Russo said.
TMRW x TODAY How a group from the 1800s is bringing joy to 2020 with members like Alicia Keys
What is art therapy.
Just as you might see a psychologist or traditional therapist, art therapy requires working with a licensed or registered professional with training. It pairs the creative process (drawing, collaging, etc.) with psychological theory and human experience to help individuals address concerns, emotions and different situations that might be concerning to them.
“Any time a person would think about going to see a counselor or therapist, they can also consider seeing an art therapist,” Carlock-Russo said. “One of the big misnomers is that because it has art in the title, a lot of people sometimes automatically think, ‘Oh, that’s for kids,’ but that’s not the case at all. It is for children, but it’s not only for children.”
What happens in art therapy?
You know how sometimes you have trouble putting how you’re feeling into words? That’s where the art comes in. It’s a way to express your emotions and feelings in a nonverbal way.
One thing art therapists want you to know is that you don’t have to be artistic to do this. “It’s not at all the same as when someone creates a fine art piece or wants to learn how to draw or paint,” she said. “This is about learning how to utilize media so that you can create lines, shapes, colors and symbols and reflect what you’re feeling inside, and that can come out spontaneously.”
For example, how are you engaging with the media? How are you creating lines and shapes? What colors are you choosing? “We don’t analyze (the client’s art) but we use that information to help them understand what they’re experiencing at the moment.”
How can I do art therapy activities at home?
If you’re feeling anxious or sad, there are some creative projects you can do at home to help give your mental health a boost and release some tension. Carlock-Russo offered some ideas that aren’t officially art therapy (since that requires working with a professional), but are great for self-help and wellness.
This doesn't take the place of seeing an actual art therapist if you think you need more help. “If a person is struggling with deeper emotions and things they can’t seem to grapple with or handle on their own, I absolutely advocate for them to seek help from a professional,” Carlock-Russo advised.
1. Create a collage
Perhaps you’re familiar with collaging from your teenage years, where your bedroom walls and school notebooks were covered with pictures of you and your friends, concert tickets and anything else that had meaning to you. Well, it turns out collaging can also be good for your mental health.
Grab some old magazines and cut out some pictures from it, then glue them together on a piece of paper in a new way that expresses an idea inside of you or a feeling you want to relieve, Carlock-Russo suggested. “You can also do a collage with just colored paper and just make it about shapes and lines and colors and not images,” she said.
2. Draw a picture of your favorite place
You know how looking at pictures from a favorite vacation can make you feel happy? Well, going through the action of drawing a place that makes you feel comfortable, relaxed and calm can bring back all of those feelings again, plus it can help calm you in the moment, Carlock-Russo suggested.
3. Make affirmation cards
Elementary schoolers read inspiring quotes from Hoda's new book
Inspirational quotes can lift your mood ( Hoda Kotb knows all about that! ). Carlock-Russo suggests writing or printing out some of your favorites and gluing them on the numbered sides of a deck of playing cards. “It could be something even as simple as ‘Breathe’ or ‘Take a moment,'” she said. You can hang up a few around the house, pull a new one out every morning to focus on a positive thought or even keep one in your pocket during the day and look at it when you need a little moment of balance.
If you’re feeling stressed, doodling can actually help you relax by distracting you while keeping your attention centered. Carlock-Russo suggests pairing it with movement (like drawing on a big white board or chalkboard), which can also help you release some tension and energy.
“You don’t need to think about (the doodle) a lot,” she said, adding you should just relax your brain and let it go. “You’re releasing all of those thoughts that are nagging at you,” she said.
Julie Pennell is a regular contributor to TODAY.com and author of the novels “The Young Wives Club” and “Louisiana Lucky.” She currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two young sons. You can connect with her at juliepennell.com .
- CLIENT LOGIN
- REQUEST A FREE CONSULTATION!
art therapy ideas | how to make art a therapeutic part of your life
by Teri Karjala | Sep 6, 2017 | Art Therapy
Recently, the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) partnered with Museo de las Americas to launch an art therapy exhibit, Las Adas , which will be on display beginning in October. The exhibit will display a kaleidoscope of beautifully handcrafted butterflies, submitted by domestic violence survivors, advocates and allies. Creating the butterflies – a symbol of hope, joy, new beginnings and transformation – is not only therapeutic for the artist but inspirational to those still suffering or recovering. You can learn more about this unique art therapy activity and download a template to create and submit your own butterfly here .
Always excited to get involved with an art therapy project, Creative Counseling Center asked its counselors and clients to contribute to Las Adas ! We had so much fun making a batch of amazingly beautiful butterflies – each a unique symbol of hope, strength, and metamorphosis – that we wanted to provide you with even more art therapy ideas. Here are Psychology Today’s top 10 coolest art therapy interventions, and we have to agree that these are pretty cool!
creative activities for adults
1. The “third hand;” the essence of what makes art therapists different from other counselors – even those who use art therapy in their practice. The “third hand” is, in essence, the way that an art therapist uses his or her artistic competence to contribute to the mental health and overall wellbeing of others.
2. Active imagination ; At the intersection of Freud’s concept of free association and Jung’s invention of active imagination is a clear pathway to the use of art in psychotherapy. Active imagination is, at its core, a way of tapping into your inner wisdom in order to open a dialogue with your unconscious mind. It manifests in the translation of feelings and emotions into visualization, art, play and imagination, and is oftentimes results in inward peace.
3. The power of metaphor ; art therapy is, after all, a series of visual metaphors used to describe an individual’s perceptions, beliefs and feelings. Regardless of medium, art therapy helps patients express themselves through a visual language that is their own.
4. Visual journaling ; any art therapy technique backed by Da Vinci and Stephen Hawking has to be cool! Visual journaling is like keeping a diary, but with the use of visual artwork to document day-to-day activities, feelings and ideas. Sometimes a drawing from a visual journal inspires an artist to fully develop the piece into a finished piece of artwork!
5. Showing how you feel ; At the foundation of art therapy is the idea that an individual can show a therapist how he or she feels. Rather than verbally explaining the perceived inner workings of the psyche, this art therapy technique enables individuals to use visual elements – movement, gesture shape and action – to convey emotion.
6. Mandala drawing ; the Sanskrit word mandala roughly translates to sacred circle. The mandala has been used since prehistoric times for the purpose of transcendence, mindfulness, wellness, and now art therapy. Making your own mandala is self-soothing and relaxing. Over time, as you create your own mandalas, you’ll find your style and technique evolves alongside your emotions. Many mandala coloring books are available as an alternative art therapy idea for adults.
7. Creating together ; the marriage of social psychology, group counseling and art therapy, where healing is provoked through the energy generated by a group of individuals, all creating art together.
8. Mask making ; this creative therapeutic activity for adults invites people to explore their hidden personas – the characteristics and personality traits that they keep hidden from the world. It’s a great way for individuals to express negative characteristics that they keep hidden – such as greed, anger or jealousy – or other traits that, while not necessarily negative, have bot been appreciated or affirmed – such as creativity or self-confidence.
9. Family sculpture ; originally, this art therapy technique was quite literal – patients would physically rearrange their family members into positions that helped them see relationships and situations. Now, however, a cool variation of this technique is to have people create abstract clay representations of their family members that reflect each individual’s personality and familial role, rearranging the models to signify relationships and family dynamics, and even opening the door to therapeutic role play!
10. Magazine photo collage ; for those who are put off by pencils, paintbrushes and other more traditional art therapy mediums, collage is an accessible and non-threatening way for people to tell a story, communicate thoughts, feelings or ideas, and create that picture that’s worth 1,000 words.
contact creative counseling center
Art therapy – especially such therapeutic activities as visual journaling, showing how you feel, mask making, mandala drawing, and photo collage – does not necessarily require the facilitation of an art therapist. However, including a trained professional can help better direct your art therapy towards the healing and recovery you are looking for. If you think art therapy might be a good therapeutic avenue to help you reach your mental health and wellness goals, you can request a free phone consultation using the brief form below. A member of our team will contact you and help determine whether our practice and which therapist might be the best fit for you or your loved one.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
- Customizable Worksheets Tools
- Interactive Therapy Tools Resources
- No More Ads
- Support Therapist Aid
Therapy worksheets related to Art for Adults
Mask Project for Art Therapy
Postcard art activity, coat of arms / family crest, picture frame art project.
- interactive tools
- affiliate disclosure
Disclaimer: The resources available on Therapist Aid do not replace therapy, and are intended to be used by qualified professionals. Professionals who use the tools available on this website should not practice outside of their own areas of competency. These tools are intended to supplement treatment, and are not a replacement for appropriate training.
Copyright Notice: Therapist Aid LLC is the owner of the copyright for this website and all original materials/works that are included. Therapist Aid has the exclusive right to reproduce their original works, prepare derivative works, distribute copies of the works, and in the case of videos/sound recordings perform or display the work publicly. Anyone who violates the exclusive rights of the copyright owner is an infringer of the copyrights in violation of the US Copyright Act. For more information about how our resources may or may not be used, see our help page.
Therapist Aid has obtained permission to post the copyright protected works of other professionals in the community and has recognized the contributions from each author.
FREE SHIPPING on orders over 29.99 / Ship to US, CANADA, UK & AUSTRALIA
- View All Best Sellers
- New arrival
- Amazon Best Sellers
- Artistro Recommends
Watercolor Paint Set
- Acrylic Paint Pens
- Oil Paint Pens
- All Marker Pens
- Watercolor Paint
- Wood Slices
- Pens Bundles
- Pens & Surfaces
- View All Bundles
- Gifts for Kids & Teens
- Gifts for Rock Painters
- Gifts for Watercolor Artists
- Gifts for Illustrators
- Gift Packaging
PAINT ON ANY SURFACE
- Blog & Tutorials
- Coloring Pages
125+ Easy Things to Draw
Beginners Drawing Guide
- Best Sellers
- Saving Bundles
Your cart is empty
100 Art Therapy Ideas & Art Therapy Exercises: Your Path to Harmony from Artistro
- fabric painting
- other surfaces
- painting tutorials
- paper painting
Table of Contents:
Simple art therapy techniques, some more creative therapeutic activity ideas, original therapeutic art projects, the magic of therapy drawing, finishing touches from the list of 100 art therapy exercises.
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy based on creativity and self-expression. The approach is used as a means to relieve stress, increase self-esteem and awareness, and for post-traumatic recovery aims. Mostly, other forms of therapy use verbal language to express feelings and overcome personal obstacles. On the contrary, art therapy allows for more abstract forms of communication. This tactic involves the manifestation of elements of the subconscious, for which there is no willingness or ability to be voiced.
You don't need to be an artist to benefit from art therapy. In fact, most of the exercises do not rely on the end result that you create, but on the therapeutic effect of the ritual of the creative process itself. If you are intrigued by the possibility of relaxation through your artistic imagination, then this list of 100 art therapy exercises is just for you.
1.The masks art therapy ideas. On the prepared stencils, draw the emotions of those masks that you usually wear. This exercise helps you develop empathy skills, listen to yourself, tell your story on behalf of each mask. 2. What is the feminine and masculine art therapy ideas. This is one of the simplest therapeutic art activities. First, it is discussed in groups how to create a collage on a given topic. During the creative process, the opinions of both groups are taken into account. The exercise expands the understanding of social interaction and human behavior. 3. Drawing yourself art therapy ideas. Draw yourself as a plant or animal are the easiest paint therapy ideas. The exercise helps to know yourself, to open your inner world. 4. Scratching art therapy ideas. Graphic work on a soapy lining is velvety due to the scratching of its surface. This exercise improves fine motor skills, relieves emotional stress. 5. Salt drawings art therapy ideas. If you cover colored paper with glue and salt, you get beautiful snowdrifts. You can also use toothpaste by squeezing it along the outline. This exercise develops fine motor skills.
6.Wet paint art therapy ideas . A drawing is created when paint is added to a non-dried background and shaded with a sponge or a wide brush. In this way, it is convenient to draw sunrises and sunsets, as well as the coloring of animals. This exercise develops imagination, relieve emotional stress. 7. Splashing art therapy ideas. For the color splashing technique, use a comb, brush, or toothbrush. Bright splashes will help express seasonal changes (leaf color changes, wind direction). This exercise improves creative vision, relieves emotional stress. 8. Egg mosaic art therapy ideas. Add some crushed eggshells in several glasses with multi-colored paint. Draw a picture, sprinkle it with eggshell mosaic. This exercise develops fine motor skills. 9. Monotype art therapy ideas. Spatter the paint onto the glass with water and a brush to form stains. Cover the puddles with clean paper to create a beautiful landscape. The exercise is aimed at developing imagination, creativity. 10. Invisible or Candle art therapy ideas. Drawing Exercise First, paint a magic drawing on a blank sheet of paper with a candle, then wash it with watercolor. Such art therapy activities develop imagination, fine motor skills, relieves emotional stress.
11. Pair drawing art therapy ideas. Try to create a drawing or applique together without discussing the topic in advance. Talking during the creative process is prohibited. Creating of such therapeutic art projects develops self-regulation, the ability to constructively interact. 12. Walk in the woods art therapy ideas. While listening to music, draw a forest, transferring your feelings from unity with nature. This therapy drawing develops the imagination, helps to discover the inner corners of the soul. 13. Drawing circles art therapy ideas. Several participants at the same table draw circles of any color and size on a large sheet of paper. The middle of the circle is filled with any images, creating a chain from them. Such group art therapy techniques reveal interpersonal and group relationships and offer the potential for building cohesion. 14. A fairy tale of a butterfly and a dream art therapy ideas. Draw your dreams to the sound of music on the silhouette of a butterfly. On one wing, depict the content of your nightmare, and on the other wing, the content of your pleasant dreams. The purpose of such art therapy exercises is to study night fears, to find an inner resource. 15. Spontaneous drawing exercise. Draw an illustration for your favorite fairy tale. The exercise provides an opportunity to become aware of your real experiences.
16. My planet art therapy ideas. Close your eyes and imagine a planet in space. Draw this planet. This exercise and similar examples of art therapy develop imagination, fine motor skills, relieve emotional stress. 17. The two with one piece of chalk art therapy ideas. This is one of the best therapeutic activity ideas for collaboration. On the board or on the asphalt, the two of you need to draw a picture together with one chalk, alternately passing it from hand to hand. You cannot talk while drawing. The exercise develops cooperation, the ability to work in a team. 18. Drawing on crumpled paper art therapy ideas. Crumple a sheet of paper, tear off the edges in the form of an oval or circle. In the middle, create a drawing on any topic. Exercise trains the imagination, helps to overcome stress. 19. Ink blots and butterflies art therapy ideas. Drip a drop of ink on thin paper and roll it up or fold it in half. Expand the sheet and transform the seen image. The exercise sets you up for reflection, develops imagination and ingenuity. 20. Paint blowing art therapy ideas. Apply paint to a sheet of paper with plenty of water. At the very end of the work, blow color spots through a thin tube, forming droplets, splashes, and color mixing. Try to see the image and transform it. This exercise hones hand coordination, helps to overcome stress.
21. Drawing with charcoal crayons art therapy ideas. Take charcoal crayons to create this therapy drawing. Use charcoal along with colour pencils or wax crayons. The art therapy ideas of such activities are to relieve emotional stress by immersion in oneself. 22. Doodle art therapy ideas. Let the pencil flutter freely on the paper, draw doodles without any purpose or intention and pass it on to your partner, who must create an image from them and develop it. The exercise helps you immerse yourself in your own world, sets you up for reflection. 23. Draw a mood art therapy ideas. Paint different moods (sad, cheerful, joyful, etc.). The exercise develops empathy. 24. Rainbow art therapy ideas. When doing this, apply each strip with a partner in turn. The exercise develops the emotional world, communication skills. 25. Group drawing in a circle art therapy ideas. Discuss the idea of the future drawing in the group. The picture must be drawn, alternately passing the task to the next participant. Exercise develops empathy, goodwill towards each other.
26. Drawing with music art therapy ideas. While listening to Vivaldi's 4 Seasons Symphony, paint the landscape in large strokes. Exercise helps relieve emotional stress. 27. Finger drawing art therapy ideas. Draw a plot in the air with your fingers. Your opponent must guess the drawing. The exercise develops imagination, communication skills. 28. Draw your mandala art therapy ideas. Use a pencil to draw a circle with a diameter that matches the size of your head. Find a center and start drawing from it, depicting a specific figure, and let the composition of your drawing form by itself. Mandala exercise relieves stress, fatigue, tension. 29. Magic paint art therapy ideas. Paint a magical land with magical colors. Stir flour, salt, sunflower oil, gouache, water and create a drawing with your hands. Exercise helps to overcome emotional stress, develops imagination. 30. Colors Life Story art therapy ideas. Apply yellow on a sheet of paper, apply blue on top of it. So a new color was born, it's green. The exercise develops sensory abilities and imagination.
31. Inner world map art therapy ideas. In the likeness of a geographic map, create a map of your inner world. To do this, think about what feelings, states prevail in you ("ocean of love", or "mountain of courage"). Leave the "undiscovered islands" to discover new qualities. The exercise forms an idea of yourself; helps to understand and express your feelings. 32. Envelopes of joy and sorrow art therapy ideas. A lot of different events take place during the day, both joyful and sad. Make two paper envelopes. In one of them, collect your joys, and in the other, hide your sorrows in the form of drawings. The exercise develops the ability to express your feelings in relation to various life situations. 33. Family poster art therapy ideas. Stick the envelope onto a large sheet of A3 paper. Place your family photos that show the brightest events in an envelope. Add a small symbolic drawing to each photo. This exercise brings family members together emotionally and helps to strengthen family values. 34. My emblem art therapy ideas. An emblem is a distinctive sign that depicts a symbol of an idea or person. Use plasticine to make your own emblem. The exercise forms an idea of oneself, awareness of one's interests and aspirations. 35. My family's coat of arms art therapy ideas. Look at family photos. Use generalized knowledge about the history of your family to make the coat of arms of your family. Exercise forms an understanding of family values, strengthens blood ties.
36. Flower art therapy ideas. Close your eyes and imagine a beautiful flower. What does it look and smell like? Make your own unique flower using colored paper, glue, and scissors. This exercise trains imagination and helps to overcome stress. 37. Cheerful fingers art therapy ideas. Take a piece of paper and gouache. Put your fingers in colorful paints and create a pattern that matches your mood. The goal of such an exercise is to relieve emotional stress, train fine motor skills and imagination. 38. Postcard without addressee art therapy ideas. If emotions or feelings about a person are raging within you, release them in a letter. To enhance the therapeutic effect, draw an additional postcard. The purpose of the exercise is to pour out negative emotions. 39. Collage from a torn painting art therapy ideas. Draw a picture and then tear it apart. Use the pieces of the drawing along with other elements to create a new work as a collage. This exercise unlocks your creativity. 40. Creation of the altar art therapy ideas. Build an altar for someone who is important to you (this could be a deceased relative, your first school love, or a brother with whom you quarreled). Decorate it with shared memories: photos, souvenirs, gifts, letters, and crafts. This activity helps you to understand the value of human relationships, as well as helps to heal wounds and find comfort in difficult times.
41. Alone in the dark art therapy ideas. Create a drawing in complete darkness. Creative tension comes from criticism and condemnation of the people around. This exercise will allow you to free yourself from perfectionism and enjoy the original creativity. 42. Color your physical condition art therapy ideas. Close your eyes, relax, and listen to your body. Using watercolors, paint your physical sensations: your pulse, breathing. This is your most authentic self-portrait. 43. Zentangle meditation art therapy ideas. Create a series of patterns and repeating ornaments in black and white zenteling technique. Such an activity reveals creative potential, giving the right to a creative mistake: nothing can be erased. 44. Allow yourself a mistake art therapy ideas. Think about the traits you don't like about yourself, the failures or mistakes you have made. Focus on one of these blunders and draw it in your artwork. In this way, you give yourself the right to make a mistake, forgive your being imperfect. 45. Poetic collage art therapy ideas. Cut out inspiring phrases from old letters, newspapers, or brochures and create a collage from them. You don't need to have an initial idea, you can come up with an idea as you create.
46. Nominal drawing tool art therapy ideas. Come up with your own paint brush. It doesn't matter if you glue the toothpicks to a cardboard base or attach a skein of thread to a pencil. The purpose of the exercise is to free yourself from control over the drawing process. 47. Forgiveness box art therapy ideas. To get rid of negative emotions in relation to a person, you need to forgive him or her. Take any cardboard box and decorate it with calming patterns. You can add a letter or a photo of this person. The purpose of this activity is to create pleasant memories that connect you with this person. 48. Happiness card art therapy ideas. Choose and draw three habits for happiness. The purpose of the exercise is to become aware of your feelings, to understand where to move to improve the quality of your life. 49. My good sides art therapy ideas. To relax, relieve stress and fatigue, you can use light art exercises. Draw your good character traits. 50. Fingerprint art therapy ideas. Contour your hand (palms with fingers) and create unique patterns inside.
51. Childhood memories art therapy ideas. Draw your childhood memory. This will help relieve stress and fatigue. 52. Happy moments art therapy ideas. Draw an abstraction of the positive moments in your life. 53. Kindness marathon art therapy ideas. Paint a stone or a brick, take part in the Kindness rocks marathon. 54. Collage of leaves art therapy ideas. Collect a collage of leaves, twigs, glue them to paper. Then finish painting the background, draw pictures around them. 55. Imitator art therapy ideas. Create your own interpretation of a famous painting.
56. Dreams art therapy ideas. Draw your dreams using exactly the shapes and images in which they come to your mind. 57. Drawing with symbols and abstractions art therapy ideas. Use colors, lines, shapes to create images that express your understanding of feelings of guilt, grief, happiness. It is important to discuss the author's reasoning for the choice of color, shape, and composition. 58. The color of my mood art therapy ideas. Each member of the group is invited to walk through a drawn maze and stop in a zone which color matches his or her mood. Further, work is carried out on individual signs (images, symbols) of mood. 59. Image and mood plastic art therapy ideas. Each participant is asked to choose a piece of plasticine of a certain color and give it a suitable shape that is relevant to the topic. Exercise is useful when dealing with aggression, destructive behavior, fears. 60. Series of drawings art therapy ideas. 3-4 art exercises are performed at once. It is necessary to develop the background of the offered drawing: next to it, depict your condition. Don't analyze or criticize your drawings, allow yourself to do whatever you want.
61. Drawing on wet paper art therapy ideas . Drawing on wet way actualizes the feelings associated with a person's attitude to himself, reflects a person's ability to relax, without control, to accept life as it is. 62. Drawing on crumpled paper art therapy ideas. Drawing on crumpled paper actualizes the topic of relationships with loved ones, growth and overcoming conflict. 63. Drawing on checkered paper art therapy ideas. Drawing on checkered paper actualizes the interaction of a person with the system, with society, finding his vocation. 64. Drawing on torn paper art therapy ideas. Torn paper artwork reflects a person's ability to recover, survive crisis periods, integrate, and change. 65. Drawing a name art therapy ideas. The focus of these therapeutic art projects is on the phenomena of identity and self-acceptance. With a wide brush and oil paint in your hand, write your name so that it takes up as much space as possible. Draw your name on a piece of paper with symbolism.
66. Visualization art therapy ideas. Visualization exercise Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. The assistant pronounces separate phrases, and you should focus on their content. After that, you need to draw images of the words you heard. 67. Two randoms art therapy ideas. Take a dictionary and pick two random concepts at random. Match them up, come up with a crazy story with these concepts, and draw a picture. These art exercises is great for training the brain and helps develop creativity. 68. Crazy geneticist art therapy ideas. Draw something that combines as many features of all the animals you know as possible. The goal of the therapy drawing is to turn off logic by focusing on creativity. 69. Mad architect exercise. Choose any 10 words. Imagine that you are an architect and your client has set these 10 requirements. While drawing on paper, simultaneously imagine what it might look like in real life. 70. Five plus five art therapy ideas. Pick any noun and draw this object. Now come up with 5 adjectives that suit him and draw them. After that, come up with 5 more adjectives that do not fit, and draw them too.
71. Naming art therapy ideas. Every time you are interested in an object, come up with a name and artistic symbol for it. Draw the symbol using paints. 72. Working with salt dough art therapy ideas. Such paint therapy ideas transform images, supplement them with new details, destroy and create again. You can mold your fear out of salt dough and destroy it, decorate it, or transform it into something else. 73. Metaphorical self-portrait art therapy ideas. Draw yourself as an object, plant, or animal that you want to be. Then write a short story about it. The therapy drawing develops flexible role-playing behavior, the formation of identity. 74. Day events art therapy ideas. Pick a day you would like to remember and draw its content in every detail. The task is to actualize the feelings; distance from negative events. 75. At the crossroads art therapy ideas. Divide the sheets into several rows, name each row one of the options for your behavior model. Model the result of solving your question in accordance with a certain model after 1 year and draw on the first sheet. Move all 5 rows this way, going further into the future each time. This is suitable for those in a situation of choice in making vital decisions.
76. Protective amulet art therapy ideas. Collect all kinds of art materials and make yourself a personal amulet to protect you from your fears. The goal is to reduce psycho-emotional stress. 77. Emotional body atlas art therapy ideas. Write down five emotions on a piece of paper: fear, joy, anger, sadness, shame. To the right of the title, you need to make a note with paints of the color with which you associate these emotions. The purpose is to investigate a group of irritants that are most clearly manifested in bodily reactions. 78. The sun art therapy ideas. In the center of the sheet, write the subject (key word), find associations to a word that reveal its meaning. Write down each association and connect it to the word in the center with a line. This is how the sun appears with the rays coming from it, which you need to color. 79. This is me art therapy ideas . Paper and pens are distributed to all participants. Each one comes up with 10 phrases that characterize him or her and depicts it in the form of a picture. The purpose of the exercise is to help the participants get to know each other better, to establish cooperation. 80. What's in your heart art therapy ideas. Take your time, use art materials you like (pencils, crayons, markers, paints) and listen carefully to yourself. Fill the drawn heart with those emotions, feelings, experiences that live in your heart.
81. The letter of anger art therapy ideas. Spill out on paper with the help of paints all negative emotions in relation to any person or event. This exercise helps to remove negativity and teaches you to understand your emotional state. 82. I'll give the pain to paper art therapy ideas. Use a straw to blow out your pain. Place diluted watercolor paint in a cocktail straw and blow onto a piece of paper. From now on, thoughts of love, not pain, live inside you. 83. Drawing the spasm art therapy ideas. If you are experiencing physical discomfort, draw a picture of the spasm. Completion of the item from separate details, in order to form new images, helps to overcome traumatic psychoemotional conditions. 84. Cast drawing art therapy ideas. One of the simple and effective therapeutic art ideas is liquid paint cast. This exercise makes it possible to blur the meaning of psycho emotional experiences symbolically. cast 85. Depth casts art therapy ideas. Completing monotypic casts on a separate sheet with a search for deep saving meanings is a very effective art therapy crafts.
86. Colored sheets art therapy ideas. Sketch in any color as many sheets of paper as many negative words you can use to describe the pain. 87. Geometric figures art therapy ideas. Draw your pain in geometric shapes in different color range. 88. My life is like... art therapy ideas . Make a series of pictures on separate sheets. Draw your feelings today. The theme of the drawings: My life is like a road, river, mountain, game, fire. 89. Facets of myself art therapy ideas. Create a collage on the topic "The Facets of My Self" from magazine clippings and newspaper pictures. Draw the missing details. 90. Associations art therapy ideas. On a piece of paper, draw associations for your partner: if he were a color, an object, an animal, a musical composition, then how exactly do you see him or her.
91. Fell the rhythm art therapy ideas. Play the rhythm of your choice by clapping your hands, tapping the table, clicking, etc. Draw what you feel along the way. When you get used to it, play it in a different way or choose a new rhythm. 92. Plasticine modeling art therapy ideas. Sculpt the image that first comes to your mind. Modeling from plasticine, dough, clay is an effective means of modeling a new self-image, productive relationships, values.
93. The lacking person art therapy ideas. Remember childhood and draw a lacking person, thanks to whom your life could change for the better. 94. Man and the planet of one's treasures art therapy ideas . From pieces of dough, mold a sculpture of a person and the planet of his treasures. Place the sculpture in paper space (the universe). Paint the dried sculpture. The goal of such art therapy activities is to reflect and analyze your behavior. 95. The letter from the future art therapy ideas. Come up with a fictional written message to yourself from yourself from the future detailing the life you want. The drawing will complement the effect perfectly.
96. Feeling to feeling art therapy ideas. Draw your feeling at the very moment (type, shape, color is determined by you). In each subsequent part of the sheet, it is necessary to draw an image of feeling in relation to the previous drawing. 97. Five wishes art therapy ideas. Write your wishes on 5 sheets. Choose the color and composition of the picture for each of them. The main thing is that the color combination matches your idea of the very desire. 98. Acceptance art therapy ideas. Cut the completed abstract drawing from a magazine or newspaper into pieces of any shape. A fragment of someone else's drawing must be integrated into your work. Glue the collage and paint the rest. 99. Reference geometric shapes art therapy ideas. Draw a circle around the point in the center of the sheet and continue spinning in a circle for one minute. In the same way, inscribe the star in the circle. Monitor your sensations as you exercise. 100. My house art therapy ideas. List all of your relatives on a piece of paper. Draw a house and place your family inside it. The goal of such art therapy techniques is to diagnose family relationships.
We offer to consider 100 simple exercises that will help you explore your inner self and unleash your creative potential. Perhaps not all of them will be useful or convenient to use specifically for you, but at least some of the list you can use on an ongoing basis. These simple art therapy techniques will help you open up new facets of yourself, as well as release stress, tension, and just relax after a hard working day.
How did you like our art therapy techniques? Which exercise did you remember the most
How to Layer Acrylic Paint on canvas
Making the World a Better Place with Artistro
Shop artistro's art supplies.
Home » Blog
100 Art Therapy Ideas and Prompts
Last Updated on January 27, 2022 by Carol Gillette
Art therapy is an experience-based approach used to face emotions, decrease anxiety, enhance social skills, build confidence, and encourage mindfulness. It can help enrich the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
A professional art therapist uses art therapy activities to help treat personal and relational issues with individuals or a therapy group. He or she uses art projects to help improve a patient’s cognitive and sensorimotor functions.
Art therapy also fosters self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivates emotional resilience, promotes personal insight, aids in the reduction and resolution of conflicts, and advances change.
Art therapists use art and applied psychological theory and experience to make art therapy effective, as shown by this study from the American Art Therapy Association. The method engages mind, body, and spirit in a manner different from that of talk therapy. Expressive visual and symbolic communication allows people to express themselves when words don’t work.
Art therapy goes beyond simple arts and crafts and coloring books, and you don’t need to be good at art to take part in this mental health care method. Also, it’s not just for kids or the elderly. Everyone can benefit from art therapy when working with a professional art therapist.
Art Therapy Prompts
The following are art therapy ideas that use a person’s creative process, self-expression, and a lot of DIY, and which may have beneficial effects on the individual’s mental health.
1. Freedom looks like … Engage in visualization to create a piece of artwork that represents your idea of freedom and what it means to you.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to bring awareness to your vision of freedom.
2. Emotions wheel exercise. Think about your emotions and the colors that best represent those emotions. You can use the prompts to assign an emotion to each section of the wheel, and then designate a color and/or a picture you would like to draw that represents each emotion.
- Goal: This exercise will help you view your emotions, such as anger and sadness, through a more objective lens.
3. Sculpt your emotions. Make a physical representation of the anger or sadness you feel or have in your life. You can create shapes, structures, and images that show your emotions.
- Goal: Physically mashing and shaping sculpting materials will help you express and release some of your negative feelings.
4. Send artwork or a message away with a balloon. Use this exercise to get rid of negative feelings — such as writing down the word “angry” or a sentence about a negative situation in your life — or to send out positive feelings.
- Goal: This exercise offers a physical representation of shedding negative emotions and/or spreading positivity to the world to enhance your well-being.
5. Document a happy experience you had. Using various art tools, document a happy experience you recently had. Create a visual representation of the event, the feelings, and the joy.
- Goal: The exercise will help you express happiness and be a reminder of good times.
6. Heart exercise. Using an outline of a heart, draw the emotions, feelings, and experiences that live within your heart.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to track your view of your world and to identify feelings and healthy expressions of emotion.
7. How I feel today. Using the template above, choose colors, and/or emotions, to demonstrate where you feel certain emotions by coloring in the human outline.
- Goal: This exercise will help you visually express how you are feeling.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help understand how you think about yourself.
9. Color with crayon. Crayon is an imperfect art tool. Use it to be at peace with imperfections by creating not-so-straight lines, uneven colors, and patchy shading.
- Goal: Learn to cherish human errors and be liberated from the constraints of perfection.
- First Name *
- Last Name *
- Your Message
- By completing this form, you will be added to our mailing list. You may opt out at any time.
- Yes! I want your newsletter.
- Phone This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Create With Your Eyes Closed
10. Draw freely. Feel free of your own judgment by drawing in the dark or with your eyes closed; draw shapes, patterns, or whatever feels right.
- Goal: Through this exercise, you’ll be able to create and express yourself without judgment or self-criticism.
11. Draw how you feel. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing and your body. Using drawing tools, draw and color your physical sensations to create an emotional and physical self-portrait.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to provide you with an image of how you view your physical and emotional being.
12. Flower exercise. With your eyes closed, think of a flower you love or would like to see. Think about your flower in terms of sight, smell, and touch. Draw what you imagine.
- Goal: This exercise will help you overcome stress while training your imagination.
13. Imaginary planet exercise. With your eyes closed, draw a planet that you imagine would be in space, including details of the surface you see in your mind.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help relieve stress while developing your imagination and fine motor skills.
Lines, Symbols, and Shapes
14. Draw a zentangle design. Zentangle is unplanned and abstract art that is created by various patterns and symbols, often made by drawing borders, connecting dots with lines, and shading open areas, usually done in black and white.
- Goal: This exercise helps you let go and reduce stress.
15. Draw a mandala symbol. These geometric symbols, which can be drawn with traditional sand or with lines on paper from a center point, help aid in meditation.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help you loosen up your mind and body and lessen fatigue.
16. Draw with symbols and shapes. Using lines, shapes, and colors, create images that express your feelings while thinking about why you used the lines, shapes, and colors you did.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help you understand your feelings.
17. Create art using only lines. This simple art form can be used to express emotions you’re feeling.
- Goal: This therapeutic activity will provide you with a visual representation of your feelings and emotional state.
18. Paint with your hands. Get your hands messy and have a good time with finger painting, spreading the paint, creating shapes and blobs and anything that comes to mind.
- Goal: Allow yourself to have fun and be messy. Let your inhibitions go for a while.
19. Paint with just your body. Feel free and empowered by painting with your body as the paint tool. Use fingers, toes, hair, and other parts to create shapes and shades and apply color to a canvas.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help you explore the possibilities and the beauty of your body.
20. Paint, scribble, or draw your stress out. Choose colors and other art tools that represent your stress and scribble and paint those stressors away through lines, colors, and your creativity.
- Goal: This exercise helps relieve stress while allowing you to explore your creativity.
21. The unsent postcard. Express your feelings to someone that you might still be angry at by designing and writing a letter or postcard — that you don’t plan on sending — with words, images, and colors that express your feelings.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to provide an outlet for negative emotions you may be holding on to.
22. Create an invention. With your favorite art tools, design an invention that would make you happier. Don’t be constrained by reality. Create whatever would make you happy every time you use it.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help you better create your own happiness and express your creativity.
23. Make short-lived art. Using sand, chalk, paper, or water, you can create a piece of art that can easily be destroyed after you’ve created it.
- Goal: Letting go is not easy; this therapeutic activity will help you accept that some things are temporary and learn to release those things.
24. From illness to art. If you have a serious, potentially life-threatening illness, use your art skills to turn it into something beautiful by representing your emotions through shapes and colors; perhaps even imagine life without the illness.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to work through depression, anxiety, and other emotions related to having a serious medical issue.
25. Make art based on a quote or poem you like. Quotes and poems have the power to change our moods. Use words to create a visually inspiring piece of art, such as drawing the image the words evoke or sharing the colors you think of.
- Goal: This exercise combines the meaning and beauty of the words with your art to create a visual reminder of the words’ effect on your life.
26. My life is like … Fill in the blank: “My life is like ____,” and draw a representation of your life today, such as a river, a mountain, a desert, etc.
- Goal: Through this exercise, you’ll create a visual representation of your emotions — your view of your life — that you can compare to reality.
27. Use plaster to make a sculpture out of your hand. After it dries, you can write all of the good things your hand does for you directly onto the plaster.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to reflect on the things that make you happy and express gratitude for them.
28. Use a rock as your next canvas. You can use this exercise to paint the things that empower you or the struggles you want to overcome on a rock.
- Goal: Rocks are solid and stable. This exercise is meant to offer you the strength to achieve and overcome challenges.
29. Write on leaves. Create a gratitude tree by writing what you’re grateful for on leaves you find. Then hang the leaves on branches or paste them to a banner.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to remind you of all the good things and people in your life for which you are grateful.
30. Just create. Let yourself be free and make the art how you want to make it without judging yourself. Draw, paint, sculpt — whatever you want, however you want — without concern for any “rules.”
- Goal: By letting yourself be free to create, you’ll be more laid back and relaxed.
31. Create artwork using your nondominant hand. Give yourself grace and a chance to try something new and discover new ways to create.
- Goal: This exercise will help you “unlearn” what you know about style, control, and discipline, and to recapture the freedom you felt as a child.
32. Mix colors. On a sheet of paper, draw several circles with a pen. Color in each circle with a different color. Once the colors have dried, apply different colors to each circle to see what the new color will look like.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to overcome emotional stress and develop the imagination.
33. Create your own permission slip. We all have personal traits, but sometimes we view those traits as faults. Create a physical permission slip to give to your future self so that instead of feeling defeated about a personality trait, you may give yourself permission to minimize the feeling of defeat.
- Goal: Minimize feelings of defeat, or even self-hatred, with this exercise.
34. Draw something large. Move around and draw something very large. You can even go outside and use some chalk on the sidewalk to get your body moving.
- Goal: The range of motion needed to create a large drawing can help release stress.
35. Scribble draw. You can turn a scribble into something beautiful with your creativity. Make lines, add color, and create a scribbled masterpiece.
- Goal: This exercise helps you tap into your creativity and relax as you do so.
36. Color in a drawing. Use a coloring book, or create your own drawings and outlines to color.
- Goal: The purpose of this simple exercise is to help relax your mind and body.
37. Draw in your favorite place. Traveling opens the mind to new ideas. Pick your favorite place to be in and go there to draw something you want to draw.
- Goal: This exercise takes you out of your normal environment into a different, yet familiar, setting, unleashing creativity and promoting a positive mood.
38. Draw outside. Literally, take your art out-of-doors. Getting closer to nature can get your creativity flowing and relax you.
- Goal: Being outside is fun and relaxing and promotes a connection with nature.
39. Draw your fears. Get closer to facing your fears by making what scares you more real, and relatable, through a drawing.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to bring your fears to light and work toward facing them.
40. Draw your favorite childhood memory. Take a few moments and think back to your childhood, recalling especially pleasant times. Using your favorite art supplies, draw a visual representation of your favorite childhood memory.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help relieve stress and fatigue.
41. Sketch a mountain and a valley. A mountain represents your happiest times, and a valley represents your saddest times. You can add specific events into the artwork.
- Goal: This exercise will help you find balance in the good and bad times of life.
42. Create unique drawings for the people you love the most. Show your gratitude by creating something for a loved one.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to bring to light what is most important in your life — your loved ones — and express gratitude for them.
43. Sketch your body image. On a canvas or paper, draw how you see your body to help with body image issues.
- Goal: This exercise can help you discover how your body perceptions compare to reality.
44. Draw your mirror reflection. What is reflected in the mirror when you look at it? Is something standing in the way of your reflection? Depict what might be standing between you and your reflection.
- Goal: Discover how what you see in the mirror compares to the reality of who you are, and what needs to change to clear up the reflection.
45. Draw your name. On a large piece of paper, draw your name as large as you can to take up as much space as possible.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to explore your identity and promote self-acceptance.
46. Draw a portrait of a past and current self. Divide a piece of paper down the middle by drawing a line. Draw yourself as you’ve always seen yourself with the line dividing your face down the middle. Now, choose one side for your past self and one side for your current self to represent the change you’ve made from past to present.
- Goal: This exercise helps illustrate how much the self can change over time.
47. Use objects that mean something to you as inspiration for a self-portrait. Instead of drawing yourself as you look, draw yourself by drawing various types of objects that mean something to you.
- Goal: This exercise offers a chance to reflect on who you are and how you see yourself by examining why you chose the objects you did.
48. Create a portrait of your future self. Create a visual representation — a drawing or painting — of how you wish to see your future self.
- Goal: Learn about yourself, your goals, and how you might become who you want to be in the future.
49. Create a visual of how you think others see you. Use this to compare to the self-portrait you made of how you see yourself.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to get to know yourself and examine your relationships with others.
50. Draw yourself as a strong warrior. What is a warrior to you? Pick up a pencil or paintbrush and create an image of yourself as that strong warrior.
- Goal: This activity will help you begin to think of yourself as strong and capable.
51. Draw yourself as a superhero. Decide who you would be as a superhero and what your superpowers would be, and draw what that would look like.
- Goal: This project will help you see yourself in a more powerful light.
52. Draw a picture of someone who changed your life for better or worse. Draw a person who has impacted your life in one way or another.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to acknowledge the people who have affected your life.
53. Create a portrait series of yourself over time. By drawing self-portraits of yourself over time, you create visual representations of how you’ve changed.
- Goal: You’ll be able to see how you’ve grown and changed in your life with these drawings.
54. Draw yourself as your spirit animal or plant. Use your creativity to draw yourself if you could be an animal or plant.
- Goal: This exercise will help you understand your self-identity.
55. Draw your favorite character traits. Celebrate yourself by drawing representations of all of your good character traits as you see them.
- Goal: This exercise can help you relax and relieve stress and fatigue while creating a more positive self-image.
56. Draw all of the positive things in your life. Think of all of the things in your life that have helped you in one way or another and draw them.
- Goal: Acknowledging positive life elements will evoke happiness while allowing an expression of gratitude.
57. Draw your inspirations. Draw the things and people that inspire you. Give them the colors and forms that represent the feelings you have about them.
- Goal: The exercise will help you realize what you have and be happy.
58. Create a drawing of your dreams. Keep a dream journal and then use your descriptions to draw what you dream about.
- Goal: You can learn about yourself from your dreams and tap into your inspiration.
59. Butterfly dream and nightmare exercise. Draw a silhouette of a butterfly. Fill it in with one wing depicting a dream and the other wing depicting a nightmare.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to study your fears and discover your inner resources.
60. Do one doodle a day. Doodle your emotions, how you feel, what you’re doing, or what you want to do.
- Goal: This exercise offers you a chance to take a break from your hectic day to reflect and be creative.
61. Draw monsters in place of your real fears. Think about something that frightens you and use your tools to give it form, color, and shape.
- Goal: Creating your own representation of a monster based on your fear will take some of its power away.
62. Spontaneous drawing. Draw an illustration of your idea of a fairy tale or an element from your favorite fairy tale.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to draw your attention to your real experiences.
63. Doodle without purpose. By yourself, or with a friend, draw random doodles and pass your pencil along to your friend.
- Goal: This exercise helps you enter deeper into your world and reflect.
64. Connect your doodles. Start with one doodle and create other doodles from that one doodle.
- Goal: Open your mind to possibilities and delight as one doodle grows into something magical from your efforts.
65. Use calming colors. Create artwork using colors that you find calming.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to calm both the mind and body and offer a feeling of wellness.
66. Paint to music. Music reveals and unleashes emotions. Play some music that resonates with you and express your feelings through a paintbrush.
- Goal: Through art and music, you can begin to relieve emotional stress and also to relax.
67. Make a painting of a perfect day. Paint your ideal perfect day and see how much of it you can turn into reality today.
- Goal: This exercise will help you think about possibilities and how you can make positive events happen in your life.
68. Paint a loss. Painting a loss, whether it be a lost loved one or a loss of another type, can help you remember and recover.
- Goal: Remembrance and recovery go hand in hand. This activity will help you learn how to express grief and negative emotions.
69. Paint your safe place. Using art and your memory, create a place that makes you feel safe.
- Goal: This exercise will help you find safety in a scary world.
70. Paint a spiritual experience you had. Draw or paint the emotions you felt when you had a spiritual experience.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to reflect and grow from your spiritual experience.
71. Happy moments. Paint positive memories or moments in an abstract art form.
- Goal: This exercise will tap into your creativity while creating a positive life feeling.
72. Paint your feelings. Focus on your feelings and emotions and paint what and how you feel.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help you identify and better understand your emotions.
73. Create a family tree painting. Think about those family members who have supported you and given you strength, and paint a representation of them.
- Goal: Use this project to honor the people you are grateful for and who support you.
74. Use watercolors to express your bodily state. Decide how you feel on a given day or at a given moment. Draw an outline of your body on a canvas or piece of paper and use watercolors to demonstrate how you feel, physically and emotionally.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to analyze your physical and emotional feelings while entering a state of relaxation.
75. Wet paint exercise. Keep your thoughts and creativity flowing by painting on an already wet canvas.
- Goal: This exercise will help you develop your imagination and ease emotional stress.
76. Paint blowing. After adding paint to paper with lots of water, use a thin tube to blow toward the painting to create various color spots and mix the colors.
- Goal: This exercise benefits coordination and helps alleviate stress.
77. Paint different moods. Paint the various moods (sorrow, happiness, depression) you might be feeling in the moment.
- Goal: This project helps you develop your empathy.
78. Make your own stuffed animal. Using different materials, you can create a stuffed animal that is comforting or means something to you.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to explore your happiness and find comfort.
79. Create snowflakes out of paper. On each snowflake, write out what you’re grateful for or what makes you unique.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to celebrate you and acknowledge what you’re grateful for.
80. Create a confident mask. Instead of making a mask to hide yourself, make a mask that expresses how you feel and empowers you. Cover the mask in symbols that make you feel strong.
- Goal: This mask can help empower you overall or before difficult situations.
81. Make an art journal. Instead of writing, use a different type of journaling — your artwork — to tell a story and represent your emotions as events, both positive and negative, take place in your life.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help deal with your emotions.
82. Pilot your dreams. On a piece of paper, draw a happy dream you’ve had on the left half of the paper and a nightmare on the right half. Fold it into a paper airplane, and let it go.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to recognize trauma or stress in your life in order to overcome it and eventually achieve inner peace by releasing the paper airplane.
83. Create a New Year’s resolution object. Instead of writing down a New Year’s resolution, create an object that visually represents a promise you have made to yourself.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help you set a visible goal to inspire your progress.
84. Create your own emblem. Superheroes aren’t the only ones who can have emblems. Create a sign that symbolizes who you are as a person.
- Goal: Emblems help create awareness of interests and aspirations.
85. Decorate a souvenir. Use a souvenir as a memory holder and decorate it with abstract or concrete representations of special days from your past.
- Goal: The positive memories from these special days will help on the not-so-good days.
86. Make an intention stick or object. Create or find a physical object (such as a stick) that can work as a symbol for strength or comfort, and decorate it with string, feathers, glitter, beads, etc.
- Goal: This physical object can provide a reminder of strength and offer peace of mind when you recall its creation.
87. Make a dreamcatcher. Create a dreamcatcher that you can keep with you to encourage good dreams while you sleep.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to create a time of peace and good dreams.
88. Create a stencil. Use cardboard or various other materials to create your own stencil for a more personal drawing.
- Goal: This project focuses your creative mind on the tools you need to create works of art.
89. Forgive and create. Decorate a box for a person you wish to forgive. Write the person’s name on a slip of paper and include it inside the box. Decorate the box with nice images and words that represent how you hope to feel by forgiving them.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to draw you closer to your desired inner state of forgiveness.
90. Map a visual representation of your brain. Draw what you imagine your emotions and thoughts and your brain look like to get a better idea of how your brain works.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help you better understand how your mind works.
91. Create an art installation of a safe space. Instead of physically building a safe space for yourself, draw your most realistic version of a safe space you would like to go, filled with meaningful, nostalgic objects.
- Goal: This exercise creates a visual “place” for good feelings to enter your mind and body.
92. Design a home. Design your version, no matter how outrageous, of what a home means to you.
- Goal: This exercise creates a warm, safe place for you to imagine.
93. Map out the people you have in your life. Draw yourself in the center and then map out all of the connections you can think of in your life and how close each one is to you.
- Goal: With a visual representation of the people close to you, you won’t feel so alone.
94. Construct a collage of your stress. Using magazines, newspapers, or old books, create a collage using various images to represent your worries and stressors.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to give expression to your stressors and help you begin to relax.
95. Create a color collage. Use a single color to express the emotions you’re feeling and create art by finding images with that color, writing with that color, and painting with that color, and then collaging with those items.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help you make sense of your current emotional state.
96. Paint, draw, or collage the things you’re grateful for. Document the things and people you are grateful for in the form of a collage using mixed media.
- Goal: This project will help you to feel happy and grateful for the good people and things in your life.
97. Cut and paste a painting to make a collage. Cut up a painting you made and use the pieces to turn it into a collage — a new work of art.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to show how closely related creation and destruction can be.
98. Collage a poem. Cut out random words from old books, newspapers, or magazines to craft your own poem.
- Goal: This project will tap into your creativity and inspiration to use found words to write something new.
99. Torn drawing exercise. Rip up a drawing you made and use the pieces to create a new work of art.
- Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to unlock new levels of creativity.
100. Self-portrait with words collage. Draw a self-portrait. Cut out words from old books, magazines, newspapers, etc., that represent who you are and paste them around your self-portrait.
- Goal: This is an exercise in self-exploration for positive self-thinking and well-being.
1. “ 15 Art Therapy Activities, Exercises & Ideas for Children and Adults ” Positive Psychology.com [cited July 28, 2021] 2. “ Art Therapy Exercises To Try at Home ” PsychCentral, Medically Reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board, August 2011 [cited July 28, 2021] 3. “ COVID-19 Resources for Art Therapists ” American Art Therapy Association, 2017 [cited July 28, 2021] 4. “What Is Art Therapy?” Verywell Mind, Medically Reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW, July 2021 [cited July 28, 2021] 5. “ Art Therapy Techniques ” AllPsychologyCareers, 2021 [cited July 28, 2021]
Originally Published August 23, 2021 by Lyle Murphy
Lyle Murphy is the founder of the Alternative to Meds Center, a licensed residential program that helps people overcome dependence on psychiatric medication and addiction issues using holistic and psychotherapeutic methods.
Contact Us Today!
- Email Address *
- Phone Number *
We Accept Most Major Insurance Providers.
Our Success Stories
Can you imagine being free from medications, addictive drugs, and alcohol? This is our goal and we are proving it is possible every day!
Read All Stories View All Videos
- Happy Story of Geodon Taper & Withdrawal “Going through the program at ATMC has genuinely changed my life! I will be forever grateful …” My name...
- Cannabis-Induced Psychosis Alternative to Meds Editorial Team Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD Table of Contents: What Is Cannabis-Induced Psychosis?...
- Successful Withdrawal from Abilify Prior to becoming a resident at ATMC, I had been on the highest recommended dose of Abilify, as well...
- Freedom from Antidepressants, Recovery from Mental Breakdown The hate is gone. The anger is gone. The judgment is gone. I am a new man. 28 Days...
- Coming to ATMC was Life-Changing I believe coming to ATMC was a life-changing/turning point experience. When I first came to ATMC I was hopeful,...
- Cymbalta Withdrawal Success Today I am home and completely off of cymbalta with minimal effects … thanks to one month at Alternative...
- The Sauna Program, Diet Change and Supplementation at ATMC Changed My Life I came to ATMC on four psych meds: Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Ritalin and Gabapentin. I have been trying to taper...
- Detox from Anti-Depressants, Opiates and Benzos I came to ATMC to detox from anti-depressants, opiate and benzos. When I arrived, I was completely hopeless. Had...
- Life Before ATMC Was Scary And Stressful I came into ATMC, not on any meds specifically. My doctor gave me Lorazapam to get here but it...
Join the Alternative to Meds Social Community
Get social with us.
- Art and Psychology
Six Art Therapy Exercises for Adults
Coloring offers adults the opportunity to feel like children again. This activity helps evoke old childhood memories. In other words, it’s a way to go back in time. This can help people put their current problems into perspective.
Drawing won’t make your problems go away. However, it can help relieve the stress they cause. It can also comfort you and help free your mind from the demands of daily life.
Drawing outside in a natural setting
We all have a creative side. However, it’s sometimes difficult to find the time and space necessary to let it run wild. If you want to achieve this, you have to make some effort and find some stimuli that can help you out.
Drawing outside can make you feel at peace . Being in contact with nature, breathing deeply, filling your lungs, and freeing yourself through drawing is relaxing. You can choose to draw a memory, an image, or something in front of your very eyes. Everything goes!
This is one of the art therapy exercises that can give you the most benefits. When there’s good weather, you can do it in a park, in a field, in the mountains, or in the beach. The important thing is to let yourself go during the time you do it. If you do, you should be able to free your sense of freedom and creativity.
Write a poem
If you feel more comfortable writing, you can let your imagination fly by writing a poem . Take a paper and a pen and express your feelings, thoughts, emotions, wishes, or dreams. Let them flow. That goes for the good ones that put a smile on your face as well as the bad ones. The latter ones will free you.
You can also create verses by using cut-outs from newspapers or magazines. Place them in a can or in a box and take them out one by one. The words will be predetermined, but your creativity will arrange them into a poem. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Creating something using your name
You’ve surely spent some time doodling your name on pieces of paper in the office, in class, or while talking on the phone. Perhaps you did it to help you daydream. Or maybe you felt it helped you concentrate on what the teacher was explaining or what the person on the other end of the line was saying.
Write your name on a piece of paper and start to create something new from it. Let yourself be swept away. Use different colors, shapes, shadows, etc. Find the best way to express yourself.
There are special paints you can use to paint your body. If you’ve never tried body painting before and it seems interesting to you, you should give it a try! If you could tattoo yourself for a few hours, what would you draw? This type of painting connects you with your inner self and allows you to reflect that on your external self.
Aside from promoting creativity, it’ll help you put your current life into perspective. It’s an exercise in connection, self-acceptance, and harmony with your inner self that will help you achieve personal growth.
Drawing in the sand
When we were children, we loved drawing shapes in the sand. We would take a bucket, fill it with sand, and build a castle or a house. As adults, we can also use sand to develop our imaginations. Sand allows us to experiment with our environment and relive some of those amazing childhood memories.
You can choose to make multiple drawings, shapes, or words. It’ll help you bring out whatever you have inside. Also, it can be a very useful tool for avoiding the internal censorship we often subject ourselves to.
These art therapy exercises are ways to express yourself freely. They allow you to channel your emotions, sharpen your skills, and promote your creativity. They help you shape your desires, joys, and fears through art. That way, you can connect with your internal world and create fertile ground for personal growth.
A trauma is an emotional wound that affects our well-being. Art can help us overcome our traumas and use them to create beauty. Read on!
The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.
Select from the 0 categories from which you would like to receive articles.
Trump Says Vote For Him In 2024 To Fund ‘Freedom Cities’ And Flying Cars
Judith Heumann, ‘Mother of the Disability Rights Movement,’ Has Died
Woman Accused Of Killing Terminally Ill Husband Released From Jail
At CPAC, A Call For Trans People To Be 'Eradicated' Gets Big Cheers
Isaiah Washington Announces Retirement In Bizarre Tweet About 'Haters' And 'Communism'
Prince Harry Reveals Psychedelics Are A 'Fundamental' Part Of His Life
The Outcome Of CPAC's Straw Poll Was No Surprise
Memphis Grizzlies Star Ja Morant Says He'll Get 'Help'; Video Shows Apparent Gun
Marianne Williamson Is Officially Running For President Again
Bill Would Require Bloggers Covering Florida Governor To Register With State
Ex-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Won’t Challenge Trump In 2024 Race
Severe Turbulence Over New England Kills 1 Aboard Business Jet
37 art therapy techniques for de-stressing this season.
Arts and Culture Reporter, HuffPost
The holidays are finally here, bringing an onslaught of family, food and, for many of us, stress on stress. Whether you're dreading endless conversations with your great aunt Judith or getting anxious over the prospect of impending New Year's resolutions, may we humbly suggest you let your creative side serve as a sort of internal massage.
Art therapy is a form of therapy predicated on the belief that artistic expression has the power to help us in healing, in self-esteem or simply in chilling out. It's unique in that most other forms of therapy rely on language as the foremost mode of communication, whereas art requires something different, something harder to define.
We're not art therapists, and the techniques below are only suggestions based on practices familiar to the art therapy community. But for those hungry for a creative outlet to relieve the tension that tends to build up this time of year, the practices below may help. They require few materials and no artistic background -- in fact, the less art you make, the better. The following suggestions are less about the final product, and more about the transformation that occurs along the way.
Behold, 37 art therapy techniques to help you relax this season.
1. Design a postcard you don't intend to send
Whether it's a love note to someone you're not ready to confess your feelings to, or an angry rant you know is better left unsaid, sometimes enumerating all the details helps deflate the issue at hand. While writing the text can be therapeutic in its own right, designing the postcard gives even more value to the object. It also allows you to activate different portions of your brain while relaxing in a manner similar to coloring in a coloring book . Once you toss that signed and sealed letter in the trash (or tuck it away in a drawer), you'll find its message has lost some of its power.
2. Cut and paste a painting to create a collage
Create a painting on a material like paper or cardboard. When you're finished, cut or tear it up. Then use the pieces as building blocks for a new artwork -- a collage. See how your original artwork transforms into something new and exciting, something unpredictable. This exercise illuminates the close proximity between creation and destruction, encouraging us to take risks to push ourselves creatively and in other aspects of life.
3. Build an altar to a loved one
Take inspiration from folk art and create an altar honoring a unique relationship between you and another person, living or not. Decorate the shrine with photographs, letters and relics of memorable times spent together, as well as new art objects you've created in their honor. Anything can become artistic material, from gifts you've exchanged to a candy wrapper you know your subject would love. Building a totem to another person awakens memories and creates a physical manifestation of a relationship that can provide comfort in tough times.
4. Draw in total darkness
So much of the stress we experience when making art comes from the judgments and criticism that seem unavoidable every step of the way. Try creating artwork in total darkness to make art free from that art critic inside your head. Think of it as a form of blind contour drawing. You're suddenly freed up to create lines, shapes and patterns simply because you feel like you should. When you turn back on the lights, we suspect you'll be surprised by what you find.
5. Watercolor your bodily state
Lie down and close your eyes. Visualize your body as you breathe in and out. Try to imagine your breath as a particular color as it enters your body, another color as it exits. What do you see? Draw an outline of a body on a large sheet of paper, and inside, create a watercolor based on your bodily state. Think about what these colors mean to you, where they are densest, where they are most opaque. Think of this as the most relaxing self-portrait you'll ever create.
6. Create a Zentangle-inspired creation
Zentangle is a drawing method invented by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, designed to make drawing meditative and accessible to all. To learn the official method you must be taught by a Zentangle Teacher, but you can recreate the basic idea on your own. Use a piece of paper, cut into a 3.5-inch square piece, and draw a freehand border around the edge in light pencil. Then use your pencil to draw a curved line or squiggle within the border, called a "string."
Now switch to a pen and begin drawing a "tangle," a series of patterns and shapes around your "string" and voila! You got yourself a Zentangle. The process is designed to encourage deliberate, ritual creation and allow room for human error -- no erasing, that's against the rules. Traditional Zentangles are always black and white but we fully support experimenting with color. The entire process shouldn't take more than 15 minutes, and can be repeated whenever you feel the urge. Keep some squares handy so you can always create when inspiration strikes.
7. Produce a permission slip
Think of the societal and self-imposed pressures you feel on a day-to-day basis, the personal traits you see as faults, the natural slips you see as errors. Choose one of these things and give yourself, in ornamental detail, permission to do just that. Turning one simple defeat into an accomplishment can minimize feelings of self-hatred, allowing you to achieve more of your important goals. Remember, it's an art project, so make it pretty.
8. Write a found poem
Don't consider yourself a poet? Let someone else do the hard part of coming up with the words by grabbing your material from old books, magazines, newspapers or even letters. Cut out words that jump out at or inspire you. Collage your found materials just as you would a visual collage. You can have a topic or story in mind at the beginning, or just get started and see where your word collaging takes you.
9. Craft a mark-making tool unique to you
Instead of spending the majority of your time on an actual painting, why not focus a little of that attention on crafting an alternative paintbrush all your own? You can make a mark-making tool out of nearly anything, whether it's a row of toothpicks glued to a cardboard base and dipped in paint, or a DIY paintbrush made from pom-poms and yarn. When you finally get around to actually making a piece with your new tool, you will have relinquished some of your artistic control to your distinct artistic medium, which, of course, is a work of art in itself.
10. Make a forgiveness box
If there is a certain person -- including yourself -- you don't want to harbor negative emotions toward any longer, try making him or her a forgiveness box. Decorate a small box with soothing images and words that can be either specific to an individual or catered to your desired inner state. You can write the person's name on a slip of paper and include it in the box if preferred, and the name can be removed and exchanged if needed. The act of making the box will bring up happy memories of whomever the box is for, as well as help you physically work toward a place of forgiveness.
11. Create a color collage
Color has the ability to affect our moods . Sometimes, however, instead of using color to transform our current state of mind, it's helpful to take a moment to delve deep into the color you're currently experiencing. Feeling hot-tempered and uninhibited? Cut and paste orange images that fit your mood. Working within your current emotional state can help you make sense of why you're feeling the way you're feeling and realize that, perhaps, it's not such a bad place to be.
12. Make a power mask
Most often we think of wearing a mask as a way to hide something about ourselves, but sometimes this layer of protection and anonymity makes us feel liberated and actually aids in expressing something true, difficult and real. Create a power mask, filled with symbols that make you feel strong (think of an actor's costume or athlete's helmet). You can put it on when preparing for a rough situation -- whether it's dinner with the extended family or giving a speech at work -- and prove to yourself you can accomplish the task at hand with or without the mask.
13. Construct a holiday "anti-calendar"
All too often calendars are jam-packed with chores, obligations and responsibilities, making the coming days a point of stress more than solace. Try making a DIY advent calendar, which we've dubbed an anti-calendar. Instead of giving yourself a chocolate each day, treat yourself to a compliment, a doodle, an inspiring quote or an encouraging mandate such as "eat breakfast in bed today." If all goes according to plan, you could find yourself bouncing out of bed each morning like a kid on Christmas.
14. Start a doodle chain
Fact: It's impossible for a doodle to look bad. Once you give in to the endless possibilities that occur when wiggly line meets unidentified shape, you'll find it dangerously hard to stop drawing. Start a doodle-centric take on exquisite corpse with a friend or loved one to loosen your attachment to your creation. It's pretty magical to watch your lone squiggle blossom into a spindly beast before your eyes. You can also try this with a pen-pal for a more productive spin on chain mail.
15. Draft a portrait of a past self
We're not talking about past lives here, but versions of yourself you feel like you've either lost touch with or outgrown. Whether you're revisiting a phase of innocence, ignorance or just plain difference, using the space between memory and imagination as your subject helps illuminate how malleable your self really is. It feels almost like reading your old diary for the first time in years.
16. Build a wishing tree
Take a cue from her majesty Yoko Ono and build a physical object to hold your wildest dreams. Use either a real plant or a tree-like object you create yourself, write your wishes down on paper and hang them, one by one. You can invite others to do the same. Writing your hopes and dreams on paper brings you a small step closer to making them real. Not to mention, the little papers resemble blossoming flowers from far away.
17. Paint your own personal set of Russian dolls
Though we're built a little differently -- mainly, not out of wood -- we too have different layers nestled inside us at all times. What is the self you portray to others? What about to your most trusted loved ones? What remains hidden underneath? You can either purchase a set of dolls and paint over them or paint atop a set of cardboard gift boxes or other stackable objects. Feel free to use images and words to recreate the layers you envision when you think of yourself.
18. Add on to a masterpiece
Intimidated by a glaring sheet of blank paper? Yeah, us too. Instead of starting from scratch, try adding onto a canvas you already know and love to boost your confidence and lower the risk. Whether you're applying makeup to the Mona Lisa or filling in the blanks of a Paul Klee paintings with your own brand of alien creatures, we're sure the original artists would be honored by your tribute. Who knows? You could become a famed appropriation artist in the process.
19. Assemble a safe space
This is for the architects among us. Remember building a pillow fort as a kid? That cozy, secret space for you and only you? Take inspiration from the five-year-old inside and build yourself a grown-up fort -- ahem, an art installation. You can create a full-blown tent if you wish or simply arrange meaningful items in a closet or under the bed. Incorporate nostalgic objects, old toys or blankets, twinkly lights -- anything that makes you feel removed from the world around you. Put on a soothing song and let the good feelings wash over you.
20. Use crayons
Yup, it's that simple. There's something about the crayon's blunt tip and uneven method of coloring that is at once frustrating and liberating. Yes, it's hard to draw a straight line. Yes, it's nearly impossible to color in a space without it looking patchy. But that's exactly the point. Allow your artistic imperfections to float to the surface and learn to cherish every human error in your creation. Whatever work you create will be distinctly yours, even if it's not quite museum-worthy.
21. Make an invisible New Year's resolution visible (and beautiful)
New Year's resolutions. How did something so seemingly restorative turn into something so incredibly stressful? Instead of promising yourself to floss more or eat less, focus some attention on an invisible accomplishment, something that's either too big or too small to see with your eyes. Instead of writing it in the notebook with the rest of your resolutions, devote some time to making your personal goal into a beautiful object, a visual mantra that inspires you just upon seeing it.
22. Create a memory jug
Memory jugs originated with members of Africa’s Bakongo communities, who believed the physical world was connected to the spiritual world by water. They often decorated graves with water-centric items like jugs to connect deceased spirits to the waterways that would lead them to the afterlife. The ritual was revived recently as a form of found art sculpture, or 3D scrapbooking. Use lacquer to adhere found objects to a vase, jug or pot -- whether they remind you of a specific person, recall a certain time in your life, or just make you smile.
23. Do a doodle a day
You know what's hard? Taking time out of a hectic schedule to create a work of art when you have absolutely no idea where to start. You know what's easy? Taking a few minutes to break from your day and scribble out a little weirdness, just for the sake of keeping that hand moving. Divide each page of a sketchbook into fourths and create one simple drawing every day -- really, if you draw a happy face as your falling asleep it's okay. Just getting into the creative rhythm will get your imagination churning. Soon you'll feel more comfortable with your artistic style and be struck by inspiration during your daily routine. You may even want to spend more than five minutes on a drawing someday. But worry not, doodles always look good.
24. Shed your old skin into a sculpture
Okay, this is far less creepy than it sounds. This suggestion is for those doing some early spring cleaning or getting rid of old belongings -- be they clothes, papers, glasses, buttons, defunct technologies. Instead of tossing away your old junk, use the materials to create a sculpture of a former self, immortalizing the (insert appropriate adjective here) year that was 2014. The sculpture does not have to (and probably won't) look like you; it can be abstract, geometric, organic or all of the above. Even if the materials seem meaningless now, they'll become treasures with the passing of time, and the ceremony of creating the sculpture provides great closure in moving on to the new year.
25. Use your non-dominant hand to create
You know that Pablo Picasso quote, "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up"? Firstly, make that "he" a "he or she." Now, channel this Picasso-ian sentiment by unlearning anything you've ever learned about style, control and discipline by passing your pencil to the other hand. Before you know it, you'll have the uncertain, wiggly, unfettered stroke of a child -- and thus, by the transitive Picasso principle, of a bona fide artist.
26. Craft an intention stick
Whether you call them intention sticks, prayer sticks, wish sticks or talismans, their purpose is the same: to provide a physical object for you to wrap your hands around and bring you strength as well as peace of mind. Intention sticks, which have roots in Hopi and Tibetan traditions, gain their power from the positive energy posited in the stick during its creation -- so basically, make sure you're in a good mood when you make it! Find a stick that fits perfectly in your hands, think of it like a magic wand, paint it and decorate it with mantras or intentions close to your heart. Add string, feathers, glitter, beads and whatever else you wish and keep the stick in a secret place for when you need it most.
27. Make your own stencil
If you're having trouble embarking on an artwork itself, how about starting with the artistic medium instead? You can make a DIY stencil from a cardboard box, playing card, cereal box -- the list continues. Use scissors to cut out a shape all your own and you can make your imprint, quite literally, on any future artworks or random pieces of paper you happen to encounter. Don't worry about straight lines and perfect proportions; with a handmade stencil, the more rugged the better.
28. Turn your fears into a (literal) monster
Sometimes the only way to lessen your fears is to face them head on. Think about something that frightens you, whether it's "spiders," "being a bad artist," "going broke" or "losing my way." Give this fear a shape, a color and a texture; it can be as abstract or symbolic as you wish. Creating the beast outside of you will strip your fear of some of its power, especially when comparing it to the (now often silly) fears we all had as a child.
29. Craft your own dream guardian
You've heard of a dreamcatcher. We're tweaking the tradition a little bit, thus freeing up the possibilities of what shapes your new dream guardian can take. Create a dangling sculpture to hang above your bed that will watch over you while you sleep. Feel free to use the traditional willow hoop with feathers and beads, or veer off track and get experimental with fabric, bells, photos, or whatever brings you peace of mind. Soon you'll have a new friend to keep an eye on you as your dreams sweep you off into another world.
30. Make a painting with no tools but your body
Don't have the time (or the funds) to invest in a new batch of art tools? No worries, all you need to get creative is your own beautiful body. Explore the possibilities of your own anatomy -- the plush curves of your fingertip, the sharp edge of your nail, the capabilities of hand and foot and even hair, if you're feeling bold. Not only will your canvas end up looking unexpectedly magnificent, but you'll probably resemble a work of art yourself.
31. Revamp a stuffed animal
We've been dying to give this one a go since we caught a glimpse of Jenny Ottinger's latest exhibition , in which she conducts slightly botched surgeries on stuffed teddy bears, producing jumbled creatures at once adorable and creepy. We'd recommend a less frightening version for a therapeutic result. Take a beloved childhood toy and transform it into a work of art, either by patching its holes, replacing its ragged parts or going a more avant-garde route. You'll finally be able to return your beloved teddy to its rightful spot on your bed, while proudly displaying an original objet d'art .
32. Craft a memory rock
Next time you have a special day, take a home a free souvenir in the form of a rock -- or a receipt, or a brochure, or a leaf; anything will do the trick really. Call it your new canvas. Decorate your new keepsake with memories from throughout the day -- however abstract or concrete your creative self desires. If you're feeling painter's block, use the natural creases and edges of the rock to guide your aesthetic decisions. A few memory rocks down the road, you'll have a rock garden that instantly conjures recollections of your most joyous days, to help with the glum ones.
33. Channel Giuseppe Arcimboldo
Brief art history primer: Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a 16th century Italian painter primarily known for his surreal self-portraits made from painted objects like fruit, veggies, books and fish. Channel good ole Giuseppe with objects that mean something to you. Whether you draw, paint or collage, create a version of that precious punam of yours made from the objects that help define you or make your heart flutter -- whether it's your dog, sunflowers or the In-N-Out logo.
34. Make an ephemeral artwork
Practice the art of letting go by creating a work of art with an expiration date. Work with a material that erodes with time -- whether it's a sand castle that washes away in the sea, a chalk mural that fades in the sun, or a drawing attached to a balloon and set into flight. You know what they say, f you love something, set it free!
35. Paint a mirror or window
Overhaul the concept of a blank canvas by selecting a surface that already tells a vivid story. Apply pigment to a mirror or window, and let your brushstrokes mingle with whatever's already gracing your uncanny canvas -- be it a snowy day or your own reflection. Just think of it as makeup's way artsier second cousin.
36. Turn a journal entry into a work of art
Whether you're drawing inspiration from last week's misadventure or your third grade trials and tribulations, why not creative a visual adaptation of your own first-person narration? Take an old journal entry -- one that was especially poignant, difficult, joyous, or totally arbitrary -- and recreate the text as imagery. Feel free to draw, paint, collage, whatever can best express the atmosphere of that one day.
37. Design your (artsy) spirit animal
Do you have a spirit animal? Have you never been quite satisfied with the classic genus and species currently available to you? Here's your chance to craft the imaginary hybrid creature of your wildest fantasies. From a liger to a jellyfish-dragon to a pegasus-zebra, the only limit to the wildlife available to you are the zoological limits of your mind.
This post is based on a series of art therapy roundups we've published throughout the past year.
Also on HuffPost:
7 Fun Holiday DIY Projects To Do With Family This Weekend
Before you go.
You may like.
'Weekend Update' Slams 'Dilbert' Creator Scott Adams Over Racist Remarks
'Everything Everywhere’ Sweeps Spirit Awards 1 Week Prior To Oscars Night
Trump Brings His Usual Grievances Back To A Diminished CPAC
Optimus Prime Rolls Out To Praise With Unusual Honor At Kids' Choice Awards 2023
Trending in shopping.
24 Shoes That Really Were Made For Walking
46 Practical Things You Don't Realize You Need Until You Buy A House
Under-$50 Dresses From Walmart That You’ll Look Forward To Wearing
Stop Fighting With Technology And Start Embracing It With These 48 Gadgets
More in culture & arts.
How 'Star Wars' Helped Me Walk Away From Religion
15 Bestselling Books And Their Indie Twins — That Aren't All By Colleen Hoover
An Emotional Ke Huy Quan Moves Audience To Tears In Monumental SAG Awards Win
Jamie Lee Curtis Cheekily Owns Up To Being A 'Nepo Baby' In SAG Awards Intro
What ‘The Game’ Taught Hosea Chanchez About Mental Health
It's Time For 'Grey's Anatomy' To End Once And For All
'Grey's Anatomy' Said Goodbye To Meredith Grey — And It Was Surprisingly Underwhelming
HBO’s ‘Succession’ Is Coming To An End
'Creed III' Explores The Complexity Of Black Masculinity — And Makes Room For Women
How Westside Boogie Turned His Trauma Into A Powerful Rap Career
How Polly Irungu Created Space For Black Women Photographers — And Got Them Hired
Jordan E. Cooper Had A Hit With 'Ain't No Mo' — And He's Not Stopping There
Culture Shifters: The Change-Makers We Are Watching In 2023
How June Ambrose Orchestrated The Biggest Fashion Moments In Hip-Hop
The 'Scream 2' Opportunity That Was Ripped Away From Elise Neal In The '90s
Representation In Film Is Increasing In This One Area, But The Overall Picture Is Not Great
Ellen Barkin Recalls Being 'Ripped Apart Physically' Early In Her Career
Fashion Icon André Leon Talley's Belongings Are Up For Grabs
I Finally Understand The 4 Final Words Spoken In 'Gilmore Girls'
How HBO’s Latest Hit Series Finds Humanity At The End Of The World
‘Till’ Star Danielle Deadwyler Calls Out Hollywood's 'Misogynoir'
Sheryl Lee Ralph's Daughter On What To Expect From Her Mother's Super Bowl Outfit
What 'Magic Mike's Last Dance' Gets Right About The Erotic Fantasy
This NYC Exhibit Is Paying Homage to Hip-Hop's 50th Anniversary
'The Woman King' Director Says Oscars Nominations Were More Than ‘A Snub’
These 17 Stars Are All Gen Z — And They're Shaping The Future Of Black Hollywood
What The Grammys Got Right — And Very Wrong
Harry Styles Beats Beyoncé In Grammys Shocker
Lizzo Wins Record Of The Year And Thanks Beyoncé And Prince In Sweet Acceptance Speech
This Is The 'Real Housewives' Franchise To Watch — And It's Not Potomac Or Salt Lake City
'Knock At The Cabin' Doesn't Make Any Sense
'Freeridge' Actor Keyla Monterroso Mejia Was Born To Play This Role
'The Real Friends Of WeHo' Follows A Tired Formula
The Best Movies At The 2023 Sundance Film Festival
Native Femicide Is A Prevalent Truth. 2 Sundance Premieres Tackle It In Very Human Ways
Why Randall Park Wanted ‘Shortcomings’ To Be A Different Kind Of Asian Story
Celebrity Documentaries Took Over Sundance This Year — With Mixed Results
'Till' Director Chinonye Chukwu Calls Out Misogyny And Racism After Oscars Snub
The Surprises And Snubs Of The 2023 Oscar Nominations
The Oscars Failed Women Once Again
Inside the ADHD mind
- What Is ADHD?
- The ADHD Brain
- ADHD Symptoms
- ADHD in Children
- ADHD in Adults
- ADHD in Women
- Find ADHD Specialists
- New! Symptom Checker
- ADHD Test for Children
- ADHD Test for Adults
- All Symptom Tests
- Rejection Sensitivity
- Oppositional Defiance
- Autism Spectrum
- Sensory Processing
- ADHD Comorbidities
- Medication Reviews
- ADHD Medications
- Natural ADHD Remedies
- ADHD Therapies
- Managing Treatment
- Treating Your Child
- Behavior & Discipline
- School & Learning
- Teens with ADHD
- Positive Parenting
- Schedules & Routines
- Organizing Your Child
- Health & Nutrition
- More on ADHD Parenting
- Do I Have ADD?
- Getting Things Done
- Time & Productivity
- Health & Nutrition
- More for ADHD Adults
- Free Webinars
- Free Downloads
- ADHD Directory
- eBooks + More
- ADHD Newsletters
- Guest Blogs
- ADHD News & Research
- News & Research
- For Clinicians
- For Educators
- Manage My Subscription
- Get Back Issues
- Digital Magazine
- Gift Subscription
- Renew My Subscription
- ADHD Parenting
The Parents’ Guide to Art Therapy Techniques & Projects
Art therapy is a powerful tool for building problem-solving and communication skills. here, find projects that encourage meaningful art-making at home — and learn how to work side-by-side with your child to enhance his strengths and address his challenges..
Art therapy is a form of alternative treatment based on the premise that art helps express emotions – anxiety, sadness, or anger – that are sometimes difficult to put into words. Art therapy helps some children (and adults) who communicate their thoughts more easily though visual images and artistry – and who are more comfortable with pictures than they are with words.
“As a parent, you likely quickly recognize struggles in how your child approaches schoolwork. As an art therapist, I will notice the same attention difficulties in how a child approaches an art task,” says Stacey Nelson, LCPC, LCPAT, ATR-BC. “The process of making art can reveal problems with focus, motor control, memory, managing emotions, organization, sequencing and decision making. It also has the potential to improve emotional well-being, develop problem solving skills, and enhance social interaction .”
During a typical art therapy session, a child works on structured projects — a process that helps him work through feelings, resolve conflicts, and develop important skills. After school and during the summer, when routines and schedules allow for more flexibility, parents can carve out time to use the techniques of art therapy to build skills and encourage a child to express emotions.
Through art therapy, children with ADHD can build mental flexibility, problem-solving skills, and communication practice as they explain what they made to a parent or friend. Art also creates natural moments for positive social interactions, like sharing materials, sharing space, making compliments, or even making suggestions. Here are some ideas for making it work for your family this summer.
Setting the Stage to Make Art
Every creative environment begins with a positive and motivating attitude. The benefits of art therapy emerge from the process of making art, not the visual appeal of the final product, so be certain to focus on your child’s effort rather than the outcome.
[ Get This Free Download: The ADDitude Guide to Alternative ADHD Treatment ]
Create a workspace with few visual distractions. Put away all electronics. Make sure your art supplies are in good condition, washable, and easy to access.
Limit the choices to two or three for each material or craft. Try creating a visual boundary around the workspace by marking off the perimeter with blue painter’s tape to help focus inside the box.
A simple, relaxing task can help a child with ADHD release excess energy and enter a creative state of mind.
A mandala is a circle with a pattern inside it that represents the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. Drawing mandalas can help to create calm energy and promote focus. Some art therapists begin their sessions by asking a child to trace a round, flat object – like a plate – on a blank piece of paper, then fill it with color and designs.
[ Click to Download: Kid-Friendly Mindful Meditation Exercises ]
A child can draw simple scribbles, a face, images of the moon, or whatever sparks her creativity.
Give a child a piece of paper and a marker. Ask him to scribble all over one side of the paper with his dominant hands. Then, flip the paper over, and scribble on the other side using the non-dominant hand.
Ask the child to write down a worry he wants to put aside while making art, then tell him to tear up the paper using both hands.
“As a parent, you might also ask your child what a particular feeling or experience looks like,” says Stacey Nelson. “They may draw it realistically or abstractly, but it can be a starting off point of them telling you their point of view.”
Sample Art Projects
The best art projects comprise a series of simple steps, and incorporate movements like pounding clay or walking across the room to get another material. When working with a younger child, write down the steps and check off each one as your complete it. With older children, reflect on the steps after a project is completed by asking how they made it.
1. Summertime Snowman
Materials : Clay, Small Sticks, Paint or markers
- Roll out three balls of clay
- Stack the balls
- Add details like a face, buttons, and arms
2. Ripped Paper Collage
Materials : Paper, drawing tools, tape or glue
- Think of something that makes you feel angry, and draw it quickly
- Rip up the paper
- Use some of the pieces to make a collage or another piece of art that makes you feel happy
3. Create Your Own Coloring Sheet
Materials : Paper, and drawing tools
- With a black or dark colored marker, close your eyes and draw a scribble
- Open your eyes
- Color in each section of the scribble with a different color
4. Circle Weaving
The motion of weaving can be calming. This can also create a soft fidget for children who benefit from keeping their hands busy.
Materials : Sturdy paper (i.e., cardstock cardboard), yarn, scissors, pencil, beads (optional), compass, ruler, sewing needle (optional)
Make the Circle Loom
- Draw a circle on paper
- Cut out circle
- Make pencil marks an even distance apart at the perimeter of the circle
- Cut a notch at each pencil mark
Thread the Loom
- (Back) Tape yarn to the back of the loom and insert it through any notch
- (Front) Wrap the yarn over to the front and insert through the opposite notch
- (Back) Continue wrapping the yarn across the back, and insert the yarn through the notch next to the notch used in Step 5
- (Front) Wrap the yarn over to the front and insert it through the opposite notch (which is next to the notch used in Step 6
- Continue wrapping the yarn over the front and back of the loom until you get to the last notch
- Bring the yarn to the back of the loom, cut and tape it to the back
Start the Weaving
- If using a sewing needle, thread another piece of yarn. If not, wrap 2 inches of the yarn’s tail with tape
- Cut off a piece of yarn to weave (about an arm’s length)
- In the center of the loom, tie a double knot of the threaded yarn, to a line of yarn of the loom (called the warp)
- Weave over and under each line of the warp, making your way around the circle. After a few rows, a pattern will appear
Add Yarn or Change Color
- Double knot the end of the old yarn to the beginning of the new yarn
- Continue adding more yarn of different colors as you wish
Remove Weave from the Loom
- Cut the lines of yarn at the back of the loom. Be sure to cut close to the center
- Tie two adjacent pieces of yarn; double know them
- Continue knotting two adjacent pieces of yarns until you have knotted all the loose ends
- String beads to the loose pieces of yarn
- Encourage children to choose beads that symbolize calm. Or, encourage children to assign a gratitude to each bead
Circle weaving (2016). Retrieved from http://www.instructables.com/id/Circle-Weaving/?ALLSTEPS .
For More Ideas
Read the Art Therapy Sourcebook (#CommissionsEarned) , by Cathy Malchiodi.
Visit the ADDitude Pinterest Board for inspiration and ideas, and please add your own recommendations.
Look up easy clay or dough recipes that children can shape, then bake. Find a wooden project to build, or buy a pack of balsa wood to glue together in an interesting way. Get some big paper, and try the Jackson Pollack style of flicking paint. If a child has a favorite character, like Super Mario, ask him to draw Mario on an adventure, or paint Mario expressing a feeling he has. Or, have him build a home for Mario to relax in. Start from the child’s natural interests, then incorporate other things.
Getting Kids to Talk About Their Art
“Making art as a family provides natural opportunities for positive social interactions like sharing materials, sharing space, making compliments or even making suggestions if someone needs some help with problem solving,” says Stacey Nelson. “Sometimes it’s easier to talk about our artwork than ourselves.”
To get children to open up about their creations, start with these questions and comments:
- Tell me about your picture.
- Is there a story that goes along with your drawing?
- What feeling would you put with your picture?
- Is there a title?
- How did you make this?
- Where did your ideas come from?
- What was the most challenging part of making this?
“For instance, if children draw and tell you about an experience of being angry at school, you can ask what the worst part was for them. You can ask them what helped them get through it,” suggests Stacey Nelson. “Then, highlight some skills or some resiliency that they might not have noticed in themselves. It can provide an opportunity for you to provide some support.”
It’s much more important to comment on positive behavior than it is to discuss how the art looks. For example, say, “I really like how you…”
- …followed the steps carefully.
- …focused for a long time.
- …kept working even when you were frustrated.
The most important thing is to have fun. It doesn’t matter if a project doesn’t work out perfectly the first time – it’s an opportunity to try again tomorrow. As Stacey Nelson reminds parents, “Remember, it’s only paper and art materials are meant to be used up and enjoyed.”
[ Read This Next: The Art of Happiness — and Self-Esteem ]
#CommissionsEarned As an Amazon Associate, ADDitude earns a commission from qualifying purchases made by ADDitude readers on the affiliate links we share. However, all products linked in the ADDitude Store have been independently selected by our editors and/or recommended by our readers. Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication
More Articles Recommended For You
How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works
Dr. Amen on “Healing the ADHD Brain”
Right Goal, Wrong Strategy — 11 New Treatment Ideas
Dear ADDitude: Will My Dyslexic Child Ever Read for Fun?
Your Child's Brain on Meditation
Build Your Muscles, Build Your Brain
10 Supplements and Vitamins for ADHD Symptom Control
How to Sharpen Executive Functions: Activities to Hone Brain Skills
Free newsletter, treating adhd, food and nutrition, medication, supplements, natural therapies, and more..
Health , Lifestyle
20 art therapy activities you can try at home to destress.
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso
Art therapy is a broad term used to refer to the practice of creating as a way to heal wounds of the mind or spirit. While art therapists are employed with increasing frequency at hospitals, nursing homes, in schools, and in treatment programs for a wide swatch of ailments, the rejuvenating, stress-busting results of such a practice are something we can all benefit from.
Invite your creative side out to dance with these 20 art therapy ideas you can pursue at home:
Design a postcard.
Give thanks with cards of your own.
Cut and paste a collage.
Make a digital collage.
Draw in response to music.
Bring a motivational message to a colorful life.
Move those magnetic words around.
Bedazzle the box.
Create an affirmation you can carry with you.
Brighten up old clothing.
Color it real.
Map out your heart.
Capture pain in chalk…
Sculpt a better state.
Give art therapy a hand.
Not feeling drawn to the more traditional arts? Try one of these, and continue to reap the healing rewards:
Redecorate a room.
Gather with friends, and create in public.
String prayer or meditation beads.
Rake the sand.
Whether you’re taking a fork to a plate of sand on your desk or hauling a truck full of tools to the beach, raking patterns is a good way to release emotions in an economical, non-permanent sense. Your creation can be a deliberate piece, or simply a series of geometric shapes that help you blow off steam. For an added shot of healing power, work on a large enough scale that the physical exertion required to wield your rake both calms and burns off excess energy or anxiety.
Help something grow.
Need some convincing that art therapy is a good choice for you? Consider these 10 Things You Never Knew You Could Learn From Art.
Featured photo credit: Chalk Drawings at Third Street via flickr.com
How to Work Remotely (Your Complete Guide)
How to Become a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott
How to Make Time Work For You — The Time Mastery Framework
The Impact of Procrastination on Productivity
The Forgotten Emotional Aspects of Productivity
How to Calm Your Mind For Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey
8 Misconceptions of Time That Make You Less Productive
Are You Spending Your Time on What Is Time-Worthy?
Distractions: Understanding the Biggest Productivity Killer
How to Deal With Work Stress in a Healthy Way
How to Leverage Time to Make More Time
How Sleep Meditation Can Calm Your Nighttime Anxiety
30 Meaningful Non-Toy Gifts for Kids This Christmas
The Power of Leverage in Leading the Life You Want
6 practical ways to boost your mental fitness.
Lifehack Show , Productivity
Focus , Lifehack Show
Explore the Full Life Framework
How to Live a Full Life (Without Compromising on What Truly Matters)
Achieving Goals: The Ultimate Guide to Goal Achieving & Goal Setting in 2022
What Is Motivation And How To Get Motivated (Your Ultimate Guide)
How to Increase Mental Focus and Stay Sharp
How To Learn Faster And Smarter
How To Get Fit If You Have a Busy Schedule
How To Boost Energy And Peak Performance
Paintings, Tutorials and Coloring pages
100 Art Therapy Exercises for Mental Health with Examples
Can the art therapy exercises for mental health help you.
“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” Frida Kahlo
Mental health is as important as physical health, if not, more important. It’s easier to diagnose and treat a body illness than it is to find mental problems.
The following list of 100 art therapy exercises for mental health includes some of the activities I did to escape anxiety, depression or stress. These exercises help you boost your self-esteem and creativity, among other great benefits.
Art therapy through colors and paints:
- Draw yourself – you can use whatever art materials you want. Look in a mirror and draw yourself the way you feel. You will be focused on your appearance and step outside your mind for a bit.
- Sketch and color your emotions – this art therapy exercise allows you to let it go. Many people use red to express their anxiety, anger or fear, while others draw curved objects to express the fact that they feel weak. It’s important to take the time to listen to what your emotions are and draw them on paper.
- Abstract meditative painting – this type of painting allows you to focus on the painting, move the center of your thoughts from inside your brain onto the canvas. It could be a beautiful sunset, a stormy sea, a colorful or black and white abstract painting.
- Figure drawing and coloring – you need to draw a human figure and imagine it’s your body. Using colors and words, fill the shape to express your emotional state. In the article Art therapy for Anxiety, I attached some exercises you can do. So, you can download from there, the human figure and copy it or print it to start this exercise.
- Draw and color your heart – this exercise must reflect your deepest emotions. Draw a big heart shape on a piece of paper. Next, draw in all the emotions you feel. If possible, focus on all the emotions you felt in the last 7 days. This should help you notice with what emotions is your heart busy, most of the time.
- Color a mind journal – create a journal for a month. Draw a circle that represents your mind and draw in how you feel every day. This means you must at the end of each day to draw and color how you felt. Associate each emotion with the event that made you feel that way. Notice the days when you felt better and try focusing more on those events.
- Scribble mindless – a good way to destress is to grab a pencil or coloring pencils and a piece of paper and scribble shapes as you please. Don’t think about anything and simply go with the flow. This activity is similar to meditation, but you must be aware when your mind starts thinking about quotidian problems and gently change the direction.
- Mandala art therapy – another gorgeous example from the art therapy exercises for mental health is to draw and color a mandala. You can get inspiration from various models you find on the internet.
- Create a finger painting – this technique allows you to get intimate with the drawing because there is no brush between you and the paper. The act of touching the paint and applying it on paper has the same therapeutic effect like working in the garden, bare hands.
- Paint on a large canvas – Allowing yourself to paint or draw on a large canvas helps you overcome many mind limitations and self-insecurities. We tend to build limits in our minds and this art therapy exercise helps you to overcome them.
- Create an artwork with your eyes closed – drawing a painting while being blindfolded helps you disconnect and sharpen your other senses: touching, hearing, and smell. You will create something unique and live a new experience. It’s both relaxing and entertaining.
- Draw and color your family on paper – a great therapeutic activity for adults is to focus on the family and draw them. This helps you remember what is important in life and you will feel love and gratitude for having a family. This is one of the most beautiful art therapy exercises for mental health.
- Paint famous paintings in your own vision – try recreating the masterpieces using your own style and colors.
- Draw yourself as a superhero – this exercise can boost your self-esteem and feel better. Also, you can focus on all your qualities and make the most relevant your super-power.
- Draw with a friend – this is a great exercise from which both you and your relationships can benefit. Sit face to face and try drawing each other’s portrait. This art therapy exercise for mental health will be amusing and enjoyable.
- Design gratitude cards – draw and design gratitude cards for your family and friends. You will feel great because you do something for someone else.
- Paint your dreams – keep a journal next to your bed and each morning write down your dreams. Later, create artworks based on your dreams. Some of the dreams can be very inspiring.
- Paint motivational words on a t-shirt – this exercise will boost your motivation and self-esteem, plus you feel proud to wear something you created.
- Paint on clothes – this is also an activity that will make you feel better, but you can paint whatever you want: abstracts, words or shapes. It’s up to you.
- Create ink drawings – this is one my favorites art therapy exercises for mental health. I love to draw ships in ink , but also flowers. You can get inspiration from the following playlist I created.
- Draw your favorite childhood cartoon character – Sailor Moon was my childhood heroine. I used to dream to be her. This exercise helps you connect with warm feelings from childhood and feel better.
- Watch one of Bob Ross’ painting tutorials – his videos are said to be very relaxing and enjoyable. He speaks softly and the overall experience is soothing.
- Paint on the window
- Paint on the walls – you can use a projector to sketch the line-art and then color it with acrylics.
- Learn to use oil paint – oil painting is very interesting and using a palette knife to apply the color on canvas feels good.
- Paint your phone case – this could be an interesting project. Also, you get to personalize your phone with something unique. Check my video tutorial here to get some inspiration.
- Paint on various objects – If you take a walk in the park or along the beach you can find rocks, sea shells, leaves and other beautiful objects. You can then paint or color them.
- Draw the good in your life – draw all the positive things you have in your life.
- Draw portraits – sketch or draw the portraits of your friends and family. They will be more than happy to receive something made by you.
- Paint a rainbow
- Paint something with one color – Pick your favorite color and paint something you love.
- Draw your past, present, and future portraits
- Paint a mountain – draw a mountain and yourself climbing it. Think about all the great things that await you when you reach the top of the mountain.
- Paint a valley – draw a valley and think about those events that made you feel bad and what they thought you. Notice how strong you become by facing them.
- Color stars on a sky – paint a black sky and use white and yellow to paint the stars. With each star you paint, think about all the blessings you have in your life.
- Create “Thank You” cards for your friends and families
- Draw with dots – create a piece of art using only dots. It’s relaxing and distracting.
- Paint by numbers – there are many online websites that sell kits for painting by number. It’s something similar to the coloring book for adults.
- Comics – think of a funny event in your life and try creating a comics strip to explain it.
- Childhood – draw yourself as a child. Think of all the things you would tell yourself if you could go back in time. Write them down on paper.
- The Angry face – draw an angry face on a piece of paper. Next, write all the things that would make the angry face calm down and relax.
- The Sad face – now draw a sad face and write all the things that would make it happy.
- Goal drawing – draw your biggest goal on a piece of paper. Think of all the methods and steps that could help you achieve the goal.
- Map of the heart – draw the map of your heart. Think of all the persons, things and hobbies that occupy a place in your heart.
- Ambidextrous drawing – try creating a drawing using both hands at the same time. This will use your both brain hemispheres and help you focus on stay grounded.
- Hands shape – place your left hand on the paper and sketch its shape. Repeat with the left hand. Now, in the left-hand shape write all the things that happened to you in the past, and in the right-hand things, you wish to happen in the future.
Art therapy through music and sounds:
- Go to a symphony concert – while a pop or a rock concert will make you feel energized or hyper, a classic concert will make you feel more self-conscientious and find your center.
- Learn to play an instrument – focusing on learning how to play the guitar can make your mind shift from overthinking to studying. Plus, it will improve many cognitive skills.
- Listen to the music of nature – a walk on the beach can help you de-stress and overcome anxiety.
- Go karaoke – you don’t have to actually go to karaoke, because you can play a karaoke video on youtube and start singing. Chose songs that express your current emotions and start that singing session.
- Sing carols when it’s Christmas – this can be relaxing and joyful.
- Draw using music – Listen to your favorite songs and draw what they make you feel.
- Dance – simply play your favorite music and start dancing.
- Sing with a friend
- Write lyrics to popular songs – pick a song you like and write your own version of lyrics.
- Song list – take the time to search and create a playlist of your all-time favorite happy songs.
- Emotions and music – play this with your friends. Write on a few pieces of paper all sort of feelings, fold them and put them in a bowl or a hat. Pick a piece of paper. Think of all the songs that represent the category written on that paper.
- Brainwave music – listen to music that has the same wave as your brain. On the internet, there are plenty of such songs.
- Listen to no-lyrics songs and come up with your own lyrics.
Other types of art therapy exercises for mental health:
- Create a collage journal – this is one of my favorite therapeutic activities for adults. Basically, I search in my old magazines’ images that make me feel good and glue them on a notebook. I try to build a future image of my goals and how I want my life to be. I heard this technique is efficient so I tried it too. And yes, it worked. Many of those things I glued in the journal came true. You can create a collage of all the places you want to visit in your life.
- Photography therapy – a great way to relax is to go for a walk in the park or in nature and shoot a few photos. Focusing on finding a lovely thing to capture is relaxing and entertaining.
- Family album – looking in the photo album of your family can act as a therapy session. You can also print your family’s members’ photos and make a lovely collage. Perhaps draw a mountain landscape and glue the images on that drawing.
- Write poems – writing poems could help you express your feelings in a new way and make you feel relieved.
- Write novels – you can also start writing novels where the main character is you.
- Create a personal blog – in a blog, you can write your most important life events or about the things you like. You will have a sense of belonging when other people will read it and relate to your experiences.
- Make a blot art – for this, you will need ink and paper. Similar to a Rorschach test, you can place a few drops of ink on a paper and fold it in half. Then, try to describe what you see.
- Practice yoga – yoga is a great way to relieve stress and pain.
- Create a dream-catcher – if you have trouble sleeping at night or you can’t sleep, try creating a dream-catcher.
- Try DIY tutorials – create various designs and objects following DIY tutorials from Youtube and Pinterest.
- Create something out of recycled objects – this will bring a lot of satisfaction because you will also save money and create something new.
- Shake it off – Enroll in a dancing course and learn to dance. This activity will make you feel better, but also make you look better.
- Create a snowflake out of paper
- Try mixed media – create an artwork including collages, crayons, markers, paints and more. It’s relaxing and pleasant.
- Learn knitting
- Build a house of cards
- Make a stuffed animal
- Think about a great invention – Just imagine yourself inventing something great and how you would use it to save the world. It’s a great imagination exercise.
- Motivational board – put together your favorite motivational quotes on a board and place it where you can see it every day.
- Sand art – when it’s summer, build a sand castle and enjoy childhood again.
- Sand writing – write in sand thoughts you would like to forget and watch the waves erase them from the sand.
- Play with legos – build something big using Lego pieces.
- Write about a spiritual experience – think about a spiritual dream, encounter or experience and draw it.
- Draw a digital painting
- Redecorate your room – brighten up your days by redecorating your house.
- Create bracelets – use beads to create bracelets that you can offer to your friends.
- Letter to you – write a letter with everything that you like about yourself and put it away. Read it every time you feel depressed or sad.
- Origami – create art by folding the paper
- Practice ikebana – this exercise is similar to gardening. Basically, you arrange flower vases in a simple, yet aesthetic way.
- Therapy through theater – enroll in an acting class and learn to control and express your emotions. Also, a great exercise is to pretend you’re someone else and to understand what they would think. Acting will also involve lots of art therapy exercises for mental health.
- Practice martial arts
- Write a resolutions list – in a journal write a list with all the things you want to accomplish next half of year or next year. Checking them once the time has passed offers a great feeling of accomplishment and you feel energized to write and check more items in your list.
- Pumpkin carving – if you’re around Halloween, try some pumping carving.
- Build a terrarium
These are the ideas that I come up with. They are mindful art therapy exercises for mental health . Also, I re-imagined some of the traditional games for the purpose of mental relaxation. I hope you find in this list of activities that will work for you.
Art Therapy for Mental Health - Therapeutic art
How to Paint a Galaxy in Acrylics - Galaxy Paint Colors
You may also like.
Art therapy for Anxiety – How to do anxiety painting?
Art Therapy for Mental Health – Therapeutic art
Art Therapy and Depression Paintings
20+ Art Therapy Activities For Instant Stress Relief
Anni Albers appropriately quoted, “Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness.” Since childhood whenever I hear anything related to art, it catches my attention and fulfills my heart with curiosity.
Curiosity of creativity, curiosity of learning a new art form, curiosity of spending my alone time, curiosity of drawing my thoughts on a piece of paper, and most importantly curiosity of reducing my stress level instantly.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a term used for referring to the practice of creativity which helps in healing the spirit or mind. Art therapists are specially appointed for increasing the wide swatch of stress-busting and rejuvenating ailments that has various mental health benefits.
Also Read: Discover and recover your inner self with art therapy
This blog covers 20+ art therapy activities for both children and adults.
21 Art therapy Techniques for Kids and Adults:
1. design postcards and make your long-distance friends happy..
This might sound a little old but I still remember those classy times of postcards when everyone used to write messages for their close ones and family members . Therefore, bring on your creative side, design a postcard, write a small message, and post it to someone close to you.
2. Practice Gratitude With the Help of Self-Made Cards.
Self-made cards do not need any occasion. You can make self-made cards for your loved ones or family members and practice gratitude towards them. The creativity you are going to show in the self-made card is going to benefit you in many ways. Apart from reducing stress , it will also help in strengthening the bond between you both.
3. Create a Collage for Your Space.
How many times do you pick out those old pictures and stare at them? Fortunately, you don’t have to do this anymore! You can now stare at them anytime you want. Collect all your old images and create a collage out of them for your space. You can also give them to your loved ones. You can find more ideas on Pinterest.
4. Try Hands-on Digital Collage.
If you’re a person with little computer skills and knowledge, you can try your hands-on digital collage. You can create something unique with the help of collage-making software. Even if you do not have a computer, you can download any collage-making app on your phone and give your hands-on digital collage-making.
5. Draw Per the Tune of Music.
Stretching your hands as per the tune of music is a new and attractive way to improve your listening skills and improve your mental health . All you have to do is to take a piece of paper, take colorful pens, and create art according to the tunes. I bet the outcome is going to be very artsy.
[ If you’re wondering which song to play, read: Best 51 Motivational Songs to inspire you in life ]
6. Write Quotes with Colorful Backgrounds.
This is one of my most favorite art activities to do. I simply create colorful backgrounds with the help of fluid art painting and then decorate them with the help of quotes that inspire me. This art is so simple, pocket-friendly kills time, and makes you more productive.
If you are looking for something inspirational to write on your fluid art, check these quotes:
- 13 Quotes on Inner Strength
- 15 Anti-bullying quotes
- 25 Best Hope Quotes
- 50 Best ‘Be Kind’ Quotes
- 81 Best Depression and Anxiety Quotes
- 51 Keep Calm Quotes
- 30+ Inspirational Quotes
7. Play with Magnetic Words.
This activity is productive and helps you in improving your mental skills and knowledge. All you have to tap into your inner poet and read something nice to open up your writing skills. Then, arrange a box of words with an infinite number of combinations. With the help of these words, create a story, quote, or poem that resonates with you and become your own inspiration.
8. Bedazzle Anything Around.
Bedazzle means decorating. You can pick up anything from your space and redecorate it to give a new look. Like, recently I re-decorated my office organizer with the help of acrylic colors and straws. Similarly, you can also create something new with old stuff like shoe racks, old tires, old ropes, flower pots, or pen stands.
9. Create an Affirmation for Your Partner.
I saw this idea on social media and found it so creative and stress-reducing. I took a piece of wood, scraped the surface, wrote an affirmation for my partner with colors, and gave it a warmish wash. When my partner saw it, he got so happy and in return, it made me happy too!
10. Convert Your Fashion Trick to Art.
If you’re someone who loves fashion, you can create your own designs with the help of fashion therapy. All you have to do is take out your pencils and paper! Draw your fashion senses on that…if you think they’re attractive, you can also use them for professional purposes.
11. Play with Colors and Create
You can simply just play with colors like; we do in fluid art or texture making. Fluid art is actually a fun activity for every age. Additionally, you can also write quotes after creating something with colors. Moreover, you can also do with sand or other craft materials as well.
12. Track your Progress With Colors.
My colleague introduced me to “mood-o-meter” and I was amazed at the fact that it can be used for tracking various problems and it is fun! Not only mood, but you can also track your progress with the help of colors and different figures. To check how to make a “mood-o-meter”, refer to the below YouTube video:
13. Play with Chalk and Decorate Your Area.
This is the most favorite thing to do when I am alone or want to spend my time in something productive. I simply just pick out my colorful chalk box and make something creative. Simple rainbows around my area look beautiful and work as a stress-reducer art activity for me.
14. Give Hands-on Sculpting
Well, sculpting is best when your mind is fighting with negative thoughts . It helps in reducing stress instantly. Additionally, sculpting helps in removing negative thoughts and replaces them with creative thoughts with a dash of positivity.
15. Try Fingerprinting
Regardless of age, fingerprinting is still most of the underrated activity which fulfills our heart with joy and fun. Also, when our fingers are dipped in colors, it releases stress from the body and opens up the creative pores. With fingers, you can create wonders.
16. Redecorate Your Space.
How excited it sounds? Give your curtains, hangings, and shelf a new look. Color them, change them, bedazzle them, do whatever makes you feel happy. Just keep changing stuff from your place and if you’re thinking of filling your home with new colors.
Read the below-mentioned piece of writing: Top 7 Colors To Bring Positivity In Your Home
17. Gather with Friends and Decorate any NGO.
What if I say you can support someone in need and at the same time fulfill your mental health needs? No, I am not kidding, you can group up with your friends and decorate any NGO nearby or in your city area. Make those little kids happy!
18. Create Meditation Beads With Your Creative Side.
How beautiful colored beads look! You can now create your own meditation beads with the use of creativity. Try this activity out and see how instantly it works for reducing your stress levels .
19. Play with Sand and Create Something Unique.
When I say play with sand, it is not important that you have to travel to the beachside. You can simply create a mini beach in your garden area and play with it anytime you want. Keep creating something unique and creative; also do not forget to share pictures with us.
20. Add Your Creative Skills in The Garden Area.
You can also add your creative skills in your garden area or in your locality. Plant trees and decorate them with little pebbles and small ropes to give them an aesthetic look.
21.Try Pebble Doodling for Mindfulness.
This might be new and unique to you… yes, you can create doodles on pebbles at the same time you can practice mindfulness .
To read how to do it… refer to the below-mentioned blog:
Pebble doodling for mindfulness
Mental Health Benefits of Doodling
Whenever you try these activities, do not forget to share the pictures with us through our social media platforms. Waiting for your pictures!
Also, if you’re continuously struggling with negative thoughts or stress, consider yourself getting professional help.
I hope this blog helps you to find a sufficient list of activities related to art therapy . Comment down which activity you’re going to use for reducing stress. For more such content, follow Calm Sage on all social media platforms.
Thanks for reading.
About The Author
Aayushi is a Content creator at Calm Sage. By education, she is a food technologist and nutritionist in making. Her constant interest towards the improvement of mental health drawn her to write. She likes to make an asynchronous connection with her readers. Her mantra for living life is "What you seek is seeking you". Apart from this, she is a foodie and dog lover.
This is made my day all are very nice and helpful.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Check your stress level.
MH News: Unknown Impact Of Chat Bots And...
How to Get Out of a Depressive Episode: ...
Easily Overcome Adversity in Life by Fol...
“I Choose Myself” | Why Should You C...
How to Make a Spouse Go To Marriage Coun...
Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy: K...
Recreational Therapy Guide: Everything Y...
Home » Counselling » Art Therapy Activities (5 PDFs)
Art therapy activities (5 pdfs).
In this brief guide, we will look at some Art Therapy Activities and PDFs related to the same.
Art Therapy Activities (+PDFs)
“Art Therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.
If you are a parent interested in Art therapy activities for your young kids then you may also be interested in Family therapy activities to increase communication .
Art Therapy Activity 1
While children can also do the activity, it may be better for adults because the depth and symbolism of the project may be better suited to their advanced psychological conditions.
This is the part where the art therapist may start to tell the person a story about being out on a boat on a clear day, but eventually the sky has darkened, and because the sea is black and choppy water is flowing into the boat and they have lost their way.
The person is also encouraged to depict themselves in relation to the lighthouse somewhere in the image and to add words that represent sources of guidance in their life.
Art Therapy Activities 2
This is another great art therapy activity that aids the person’s understanding of anxiety and helps them visualize their anxiety so that they can get started on controlling and treating it.
The materials needed for the activity are as follows:
Art Therapy Activity 3
This last Art therapy activity is quite useful for children, and it is known as What’s in your heart.
Once the person has talked about these things, they may be provided with the worksheets and ask them to fill the heart with what we have just been thinking and talking about.
If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Art Therapy activities PDF
What is art therapy and how does it work, what is the role of art therapist, how is art therapy effective.
Art therapy is effective because it helps to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions of the person engaging in it, and it has also been shown to foster self-esteem and self-awareness in individuals.
What is art therapy counseling?
11+ Fine Motor Coordination Activities for Adult Rehab Patients
As an occupational therapist, OT student or COTA working in any adult rehab setting, you will see your fair share of patients with a new or exacerbated diagnosis that affects their fine motor coordination.
This can include a stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or any other illness that affects the patient’s nervous system. These conditions can cause decreased fine motor coordination that directly affects their independence completing their self-care tasks.
This article specifically addresses functional, occupation-based ways to address decreased fine motor coordination.
So if you and your patients are bored with pegs and putty and are looking for more meaningful activities for fine motor coordination, this article is for you!
Want to learn more about functional interventions?
There are so many fine motor components in dressing that can present a problem. Whether it’s tying shoelaces, buttoning a shirt or pants, zipping a jacket, or fastening a bra, focusing on what’s difficult for your patient and targeting that in the intervention is a great way to address fine motor coordination in the most functional way.
2. Medication Management
Creating a simulated medication management kit is a great way to target more difficult fine motor coordination skills. Opening/closing medication containers as well as picking up small “pills” both add a fine motor coordination component.
This activity also incorporates a high level cognitive element by verifying if the patient has added the correct “medications” that you have given them.
For how to make your own medication management kit, check out this example from the University of Utah’s College of Health.
If you’re in a setting that doesn’t have full kits for fine motor coordination (such as acute care ), grooming is a great way to incorporate fine motor coordination. This can be done by having your patient open small toothpaste or soap containers, applying toothpaste to the toothbrush, and going through the full brushing routine with their affected hand.
You don’t have to be in acute care to work on grooming, though! In any rehab setting, most patients will really appreciate being able to work on their grooming tasks since this can sometimes get neglected by other staff.
Self-feeding or even simulated self feeding tasks like cutting and piercing “food” (like Theraputty) or scooping dried beans can be a good fine motor challenge for patients who demonstrate difficulty with managing self-feeding.
Starting off with finger foods during mealtime (if appropriate for the patient’s diet) is also a good fine motor challenge if utensils are too much of a challenge to start with.
5. Managing Grocery Containers
This activity requires a little extra prep work beforehand but can be used over and over. It’s often called a “Groceries Galore” kit which is one of my favorite interventions. This was also one of my in-service projects during my Level II, so I’m partial to it 🙂
The kit includes clean grocery containers of all varieties with added small items inside, such as pennies, Scrabble pieces, or other small items that the patient can open and dump out the small items in the container.
Adding the small items makes the task more of a graded-up challenge than simply opening and closing the containers.
6. Money Management
If your patient still uses change and cash regularly, this is a great way to really challenge their fine motor skills. Picking up small coins and bills and placing them in a small piggy bank while adding some money math skills can add in some bonus cognitive retraining.
You can also use a “credit card” to practice picking it up, putting it in/taking it out of a wallet, manipulating it and “swiping” it as another important component to money management. To avoid losing real credit cards, you can save those fake credit cards you get in the mail via offers, black out your name, and use them for practice.
7. Using a Lock Board
I’ve seen and used a lock board in several settings and have found it’s a great task to work the patient’s affected hand, since we all have locks at home! If your facility doesn’t have a lock board, they can be ordered online or one could be made for a great in-service project by a crafty fieldwork student.
If your patient was using a computer, iPad, or iPhone frequently and has been having difficulty, keyboarding is also a great fine motor coordination activity that many of my patients have been glad to address. Not only are these important work skills but they also are commonly used in virtual social interaction.
In addition to keyboarding, handwriting can also be a new challenge if the patient’s dominant hand has been affected. If handwriting starts off as too challenging, you can modify by incorporating coloring in adult coloring books if it is something the patient enjoys. This is not only great for improving fine motor skills but has also been shown to be helpful in stress reduction .
10. Meal Preparation
Simple meal preparation has so many components that address fine motor coordination, from opening packages, containers, scooping, and cutting the food. I also love doing meal preparation activities to address standing tolerance, balance, functional reaching, and safety awareness.
11. App-Based Fine Motor Coordination Activities
While using an app might not at first seem like a traditional occupation-based activity, many patients use their smart phones and tablets every day, and impaired fine motor coordination can of course also impact their use of their devices.
So if you’re able to add in some technology to your treatments, here are some of our favorite free or very low cost fine motor coordination apps:
Piano Tiles is a free app that addresses accuracy and speed of coordinated movement. It challenges the user to move their fingers quickly through the interface which can help to increase coordination not only for device use but also keyboarding or work-related skills.
Dexteria Fine Motor Skill Development
Dexteria is an app that can be used from grade K-adults that focuses on improving fine motor skills through exercises that work on strength, control, and dexterity with games like “Tap it,” “Pinch it,” and “Write it.” At the time of publishing, the cost for this app is $5.99.
ReHand is an app that provides specific finger exercises to improve ROM and coordinated or isolated movement. At time of publishing, the app provides a free demo to patients and states to work through a doctor or therapist for the full version. As the therapist, you can use the app to monitor your patient progress and completion of exercises.
Looking for more great apps to use in your practice? Be sure to check out our article, The Best Occupational Therapy Apps for Adult Rehab Patients .
Many of these fine motor coordination activities may initially be challenging for your patients, so you can certainly adapt each task as needed.
For example, you may incorporate larger buttons, zippers or “medications” if you find the task to be too difficult. You can then progress to the more challenging, smaller items as your patients master the easier task.
Looking for even more fine motor coordination activities for your adult rehab patients? The OT Flourish blog also has 27 occupational therapists’ fine motor intervention ideas to add to your repertoire.
I hope this article helps you add some functional fine motor coordination treatment ideas to your personal rehab toolbox. I’d also love to hear some of your favorite go-to fine motor coordination interventions in the comments below!
This post was originally published on Jan. 24, 2017 and updated on Fed. 15, 2021 and January 29, 2022.
You may also like
The Best Splinting Guide for Occupational Therapists
6 of the Best Occupational Therapy Forums
10 Reasons Why OTs Should Be Using Occupation-Based Interventions
Love this. This is very helpful for me as a level 2 student in snf. My classmates and I always complain about not knowing treatment ideas in our setting that is more functional based. Can you do another post about therapeutic activities and neuro re-education?
Thanks Jackie! I struggled a lot with coming up with occupation-based intervention ideas in FW as well, so I definitely plan on writing a lot more intervention posts this year.
Sarah, I just found your blog and am loving it! I am a COTA student, and just started FW. I, too, am struggling with treatment ideas in the afternoon. Patients are encouraged to be in the therapy gym after lunch. I find it repetitive and boring, with too many prepatory activities being done. Unfortunately, the facility isn’t equipped with a whole lot, and I’m unable to bring in food and ingredients for patients to cook, as that would get pricey. I do hope that you continue your blog and post about intervention ideas. Thanks, Jennifer
I love this site and have found the information provided to be very helpful. Thank you for all your time and effort. For one of my Level IIs, I incorporated the rehab department’s goal of creating “functional toolboxes”, such as the medication management activity kit listed in this article. I created a kit based on the mail. The kit included: various sizes and types of: paper, cards, envelopes, pens, markers, stamps (USPS) and decorative, letter openers, staplers, scissors, tape etc., a mail bag, a mailbox (could be placed on table/counter or moved to simulate at home-outside if possible) and of course assorted mail in the box to be removed, placed in bag, brought to table, sorted, and opened. This tool kit provided many options for grading these related functional activities with opportunities to employ fine and gross motor skills.
Creating a mail occupation-based toolkit is an awesome idea! I’m sure your fieldwork site was really grateful to have that; I think every rehab unit could benefit from this. Thank you for sharing!
I am a entry level COTA, and just landed my first job YAY me! But the stress of having functional intervention ideas are hard. Especially when all OT collection of notes and books are packed… yes I’m moving for my job. Pinterest is great, but this blog really helps me! I currently have a few people that would def gain from these intervention ideas! THANK YOU!! 🙂
Hi Amanda, huge congrats on your first job! Moving and finding treatment notes definitely sounds tough (moving in general is hard enough!) so I’m really glad the blog is helpful for you!
Oh I love these! I was curious about your Groceries Galore kit and how do you grade it down?
I’m so glad to hear that! To grade Groceries Galore down for fine motor coordination in particular, you could utilize just the large-lid, easy-open containers without the picking up small items part if that’s too hard. In addition, you could do this in sitting versus standing to make it easier as well.
Leave a comment Cancel reply
Your comment *
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .
Therapy worksheets related to Art for Adults Life Story worksheet This worksheet was inspired by positive psychology, but also has elements of narrative and art therapies. During this activity, you will ask your clients to write a life story in three parts: the past, present and future.
Facilitating this art therapy activity for adults is pretty straightforward and can be done in a single session, or carried over several sessions. Provide them with paper and drawing tools. It can be any size, but should probably be at least 8.5×11. Depending on the client's issues, you may tailor the directive prompt to meet that need, (i.e ...
5 Art Therapy Ideas For Adult Self-Esteem Norman Rockwell Triple Portrait, Image Source 1. Mirror Drawing Supplies: We suggest at least an A3 size of paper, because it will provide you with enough space to keep the drawing of your face true to size.
2 Art therapy techniques and exercises for adults 3 Helpful art therapy activities for anxiety 3.1 Build a safe space 3.2 Create a collage of emotions 3.3 Draw in response to music 3.4 Zentangle® drawing 4 How to use essential oils alongside art therapy activities 4.1 How To Sell Out A Workshop Online In No Time 5 FAQs
3 Activities for Adults and Groups We share three activities with which to get started. 1. Mindful painting for stress relief For this activity, you will need drawing pencils, ink pens, felt pens, colored pencils, pastels, chalks, crayons, acrylic and/or water paints, and brushes. This activity can be conducted with an individual or in a group.
Plastic Plates for Glue Mixing Gloves for handling broken pottery 8. ART PROMPT: Bob Ross Paint-Along For one art group, we recently hosted a "Paint Along with Bob Ross" night. This prompt was intended to be playful and invitational, although even prescribed art can be expressive.
GET CREATIVE TO RELIEVE STRESS: 8 great art therapy ideas for adults Kate Harveston · Psychology · May 19, 2020 · 6 min read Contents Buy adult colouring books Create a self-care box Knit an afghan Make a collage Paint your emotions Take photos of things that make you happy Write and illustrate your story Sculpt spirit figurines
Below are five possible art therapy activities and exercises for children of all ages. 1. Art therapy postcard activity Most people would probably agree that it's easier to express or recognize hurts and regrets when there's the distance between yourself and the problem.
The use of artistic methods to treat psychological disorders and enhance mental health is known as art therapy. Art therapy is a technique rooted in the idea that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being. 1. People have been relying on the arts for communication, self-expression, and healing for thousands of years.
Art Therapy Activities for Adults. A great type of art therapy activity for adults is the Lighthouse, which in some cases could be used for children as well but it may work best with people above a certain maturity level because it involves guided meditation as well.
Art therapy for adults: Activities to help you destress - TODAY Health Art therapy isn't just for kids: Here's how it can help you Here are some activities you can try at home....
Art therapy - especially such therapeutic activities as visual journaling, showing how you feel, mask making, mandala drawing, and photo collage - does not necessarily require the facilitation of an art therapist. However, including a trained professional can help better direct your art therapy towards the healing and recovery you are looking for.
Therapy worksheets related to Art for Adults Life Story worksheet This worksheet was inspired by positive psychology, but also has elements of narrative and art therapies. During this activity, you will ask your clients to write a life story in three parts: the past, present and future.
Drawing yourself art therapy ideas. Draw yourself as a plant or animal are the easiest paint therapy ideas. The exercise helps to know yourself, to open your inner world. 4. Scratching art therapy ideas. Graphic work on a soapy lining is velvety due to the scratching of its surface.
Goal: This therapeutic activity will provide you with a visual representation of your feelings and emotional state. Miscellaneous 18. Paint with your hands. Get your hands messy and have a good time with finger painting, spreading the paint, creating shapes and blobs and anything that comes to mind. Goal: Allow yourself to have fun and be messy.
These art therapy exercises are ways to express yourself freely. They allow you to channel your emotions, sharpen your skills, and promote your creativity. They help you shape your desires, joys, and fears through art. That way, you can connect with your internal world and create fertile ground for personal growth.
Behold, 37 art therapy techniques to help you relax this season. 1. Design a postcard you don't intend to send. Whether it's a love note to someone you're not ready to confess your feelings to, or an angry rant you know is better left unsaid, sometimes enumerating all the details helps deflate the issue at hand.
Warm-Up Activities. A simple, relaxing task can help a child with ADHD release excess energy and enter a creative state of mind. 1. Mandalas. A mandala is a circle with a pattern inside it that represents the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. Drawing mandalas can help to create calm energy and promote focus.
20 Art Therapy Activities You Can Try At Home To Destress. Written by Jan Shultis. "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.". - Pablo Picasso. Art therapy is a broad term used to refer to the practice of creating as a way to heal wounds of the mind or spirit. While art therapists are employed with increasing frequency at ...
Draw and color your family on paper - a great therapeutic activity for adults is to focus on the family and draw them. This helps you remember what is important in life and you will feel love and gratitude for having a family. This is one of the most beautiful art therapy exercises for mental health.
Art therapists are specially appointed for increasing the wide swatch of stress-busting and rejuvenating ailments that has various mental health benefits. Also Read: Discover and recover your inner self with art therapy. This blog covers 20+ art therapy activities for both children and adults.
Art therapy activities can be very helpful for individuals who are not able to express what they are feeling well enough in words, or maybe they are not feeling much relief from doing the traditional cognitive behavior therapy exercises that may be done with other patients.
Dexteria Fine Motor Skill Development. Dexteria is an app that can be used from grade K-adults that focuses on improving fine motor skills through exercises that work on strength, control, and dexterity with games like "Tap it," "Pinch it," and "Write it.". At the time of publishing, the cost for this app is $5.99.