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What art therapy is like: healing through image and color.

Updated: Nov 10

Therapy is different with me. I have my own style. 

My clients find their way to me for lots of reasons and generally, they are seeking a creative way to support their mental health, something different than traditional talk therapy. When folx share with me, I’m often curious about the images that arise inside of them. This helps them to experience and express themselves in healing ways. When people discuss the challenges they are facing, we might notice the sensations which arise. The body gives us non-verbal wisdom. Together we explore what’s happening through listening in multiple ways; thoughts and words, images and colors, sensations and the behaviors. I help facilitate the space, where my clients can build a deeper understanding of their own mind and resolve complex, painful patterns which get played out in life.

So, how does that help – to understand one’s mind more? And what's art therapy like?

We humans are dynamic and complex beings. Being able to witness our own mind, provides opportunities for us to help change ourselves and our reality. Most of us want to decrease our own suffering and find more ease in our daily lives. It’s pivotal that we humans understand that our brains have the ability to change, and we can rewire them to improve our well-being! People often want something to change, but even if we really, really, really want change, it's often still scary and challenging.

Change moves us into the unknown. That place is full off possibility. Art therapy lets us see where we can go.

Having the support of a therapist when doing and being in new ways is helpful. It’s powerful to have a witness, to share with someone when you notice shifts (which other humans in real-life might not get) and to be heard, seen, encouraged and respected for the journey you are on.

Let's imagine what a session could be like.

woman drawing with colored pastels
Intuitive painting

Upon entering the space, you might share what you want to focus on. What shift would you like to see? What might you want me to know? What has been challenging you lately?

From there, we go exploring to understand more, sometimes with questions and sometimes through art making. My questions can be a bit weird – like what your tears might know? Or to describe your experience of anxiety with and image or color.

Sometimes big or challenging emotions show-up. If they do, we practice feeling them and allowing them to be seen by yourself and another (me). Since it’s seen by another you are also practicing vulnerability.

People often need support when emotions show up (this can include positive emotions, like being proud of ourselves. Positive emotions can also be difficult to experience). We might take deep breaths or learn different breathing techniques to help our body soften and allow the experience. Or maybe it’s a big emotion which needs support moving out of the body, so we may explore movements to help release the tension. Other times I might encourage folks to use art (line, color, shape, form, texture) to externalize their experience: to put the experience outside of their body, so they can see it and know it differently. Often that gives us very different information than what our logic brain shares with us. I witness concepts and challenges becoming clearer for folx when they have more information.

But what if you can only draw stick figures?

Totally ok. It’s not really about how it looks (which is also a really hard thing to remember). It’s about what it’s like for you to make it. And then to see it outside of yourself. Art therapists tend to be indoctrinated with a motto: “trust the process.” It took me a long time to not be annoyed by this line which use to feel so cliché. I had to embody this in my own art for it to click. I’ve also worked with enough folx by now that I deeply “trust [their] process” of healing. I’m often delighted by the brilliance of my clients.

All that said and, I can teach you the basics of a new mediums or support with how to construct something, but I am often encouraging my people to trust themselves in their own process of creating. I deeply believe we are all creative and there is a source of power there. It is “skill” which is developed over time.

How does all that help one outside of therapy?

Change show up in lots of ways.

My clients often share with me that they are noticing shifts in how they perceive their world. Some develop (or return to) behaviors like writing, making music or art. This shows me that they are connecting with themself - their whole brain - in a way that can build their esteem and naturally reduce stress. Some embody themselves in new ways; they can recognize when they are anxious and know how to help themselves feel more grounded. People tell me they feel like they can be more vulnerable with their loved ones and ask for what they need, which improves the quality of their relationships. Others demonstrate stronger boundaries and have strong sense of their own strengths and intelligence. Many experience more grace towards themselves.

It’s fun to see the surprise benefits clients' get too. Sometimes other problems shift which seemed totally unrelated, but that’s how the mind can be – it makes all kinds of connections and associations, so when something transforms it can have ripple effects through our being.

watercolor of large brain with pain and light
Brain releasing and healing

Other art therapists will have their own way, but here's a bit of mine. I invite all to ask questions on what I might have missed or doesn’t feel clear. Your questions help my voice grow.

In gratitude,


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