art therapy assignments

100 Art Therapy Exercises

art therapy assignments

Here is a popular internet list of art therapy activities originally posted up in 2011 by the Nursing School Blog. I have since taken over the list and I consistently research current links that reflect the most inspiring art therapy directives on the internet today, keeping them as close as possible to the original list.

Last Updated October 31, 2023

  • Draw or paint your emotions .  In this exercise, you'll focus entirely on painting what you're feeling.
  • Create an emotion wheel.  Using color, this activity will have you thinking critically about your emotions.
  • Make a meditative painting.  Looking for a creative way to relax?  Have trouble sitting still to meditate?  Meditative painting might be just the thing you're looking for.  No painting skill or experience necessary - only a desire to relax and become more creative.
  • Put together a journal .  Journals don't have to just be based around words. You can make an art journal as well, that lets you visually express your emotions.
  • Explore puppet therapy .  Puppets aren't just for kids. Make your own and have them act out scenes that make you upset.
  • Use line art .  Line is one of the simplest and most basic aspects of art, but it can also contain a lot of emotion. Use simple line art to demonstrate visually how you're feeling.
  • Design a postcard you will never send .  Are you still angry or upset with someone in your life? Create a postcard that expresses this, though you don't have to ever send it.
  • Create a family sculpture .  For this activity, you makes a clay representation of each family member-- mother, father, siblings, and any other close or influential family members to explore emotional dynamics and roles within your family.
  • Paint a mountain and a valley .  The mountain can represent a time where you were happy, the valley, when you were sad. Add elements that reflect specific events as well.
  • Heal your shadow .  Heal your shadow, amplify your intuition, and access inspiration with three simpple intuitive creativity prompts.
  • Draw Your Heart.  Draw your feelings in a heart formation.

Mandala 100 art therapy exercises

Art therapy can be a great way to relax. Consider these exercises if you're looking to feel a little more laid back.

  • Paint to music .  Letting your creativity flow in response to music is a great way to let out feelings and just relax.
  • Make a scribble drawing .  With this activity, you'll turn a simple scribble into something beautiful, using line, color and your creativity.
  • Finger paint .  Finger painting isn't just fun for kids– adults can enjoy it as well. Get your hands messy and really have fun spreading the paint around.
  • Make a mandala .  Whether you use the traditional sand or draw one on your own, this meditative symbol can easily help you to loosen up.
  • Draw with your eyes closed .  Not being able to see what you are drawing intensifies fluidity, intuition, touch and sensitivity.
  • Draw something HUGE .  Getting your body involved and moving around can help release emotion as you're drawing.
  • Use color blocks .  Colors often come with a lot of emotions attached. Choose several paint chips to work with and collage, paint and glue until you've created a colorful masterpiece.
  • Let yourself be free .  Don't allow yourself to judge your work. If you think your paintings are too tight and controlled, this collection of tips and techniques to try should help you work in a looser style. 
  • Only use colors that calm you .  Create a drawing or a painting using only colors that you find calming.
  • Draw in sand .  Like a Zen garden, this activity will have you drawing shapes and scenes in the sand, which can be immensely relaxing and a great way to clear your mind.
  • Make a zentangle .  These fun little drawings are a great tool for letting go and helping reduce stress.
  • Color in a design .  Sometimes, the simple act of coloring can be a great way to relax. Find a coloring book or use this mandala for coloring.
  • Draw outside .  Working  en plein air  can be a fun way to relax and get in touch with nature while you're working on art.


Art can not only help you deal with the bad stuff, but also help you appreciate and focus on the good. Check out these activities all about reflecting on your personal happiness.

  • Collage your vision of a perfect day . Think about what constitutes a perfect day to you and collage it. What about this collage can you make happen today?
  • Take photographs of things you think are beautiful .  No one else has to like them but you. Print and frame them to have constant reminders of the beautiful things in life.
  • Make a collage related to a quote you like .  Take the words of wisdom from someone else and turn them into something visually inspiring.
  • Create a drawing that represents freedom.   The Surrealists embraced automatic drawing as way to incorporate randomness and the subconscious into their drawings, and to free themselves from artistic conventions and everyday thinking.
  • Document a spiritual experience .  Have you ever had a spiritual experience in your life? Paint what it felt like intuitively.
  • Make a stuffed animal .  Soft, cuddly objects can be very comforting. This project could be used to create an imaginary animal from your intuitive drawings.
  • Collage Your Joy .  Spontaneously find out what would bring you more joy through this intuitive collage exercise
  • Build a "home."  What does home mean to you? This activity will have you create a safe, warm place that feels like home to you.
  • Document an experience where you did something you didn't think you could do.  We all have to do things that we're scared or unsure of sometimes. Use this activity as a chance to commemorate one instance in your life.
  • Think up a wild invention .  This invention should do something that can help make you happier– no matter what that is.
  • Make a prayer flag .  Send your prayers for yourself or those around you out into the universe with this project.

Paints - 100 art therapy exercises

Often, a great way to get to know yourself and your relationships with others is through portraits.

  • Create a past, present and future self-portrait.  This drawing or painting should reflect where you have been, who you are today, and how see yourself in the future.
  • Draw a bag self-portrait .  On the outside of a paper bag, you'll create a self-portrait. On the inside, you'll fill it with things that represent who you are.
  • Choose the people who matter most to you in life and create unique art for each . This is a great way to acknowledge what really matters to you and express your gratitude.
  •   "I am" Collage.  Create an intuitive collage and discover more about yourself.
  • Create an expressive self-portrait .  Paint in expressive colors. Select colors for emotional impact.
  • Draw yourself as a warrior.  Start thinking about yourself as a strong, capable person by drawing yourself as a warrior in this activity.
  • Create a transformational portrait series .  Transform your perceptions about yourself with this list of self-portrait ideas.
  • Imitate Giuseppe Arcimboldo .  Using objects that have meaning to you, create a portrait of yourself.
  • Create a body image sketch.  Practice life drawing to fall in love with all of the varieties of the human body, including your own.
  • Draw a mirror self-portrait .  This activity is based around a Piet Mondrian quote: "The purer the artist's mirror is, the more true reality reflects in it." 
  • Draw yourself as a superhero.  Many people like superhero stories. We resonate with the themes in the stories, with the dilemmas and problems that superheroes face, and we aspire to their noble impulses and heroic acts.

Paintbrushes - 100 art therapy exercises

These activities will ask you to face some unpleasant aspects of life, but with the goal of overcoming them.

  • Draw a place where you feel safe.  An art therapy directive for finding your safe place.
  • Create a mini-diorama .  A diorama can showcase an important moment in your life or something from your imagination.
  • Transform your worries .  Creativity is a great way to notice your worries, move through them and transform them into something new.
  • Draw something that scares you .  Everyone is frightened of something and in this project you'll get a chance to bring that fear to light and hopefully work towards facing it.
  • Turn your illness into art .  Struggling with a potentially terminal illness? Process your feelings about your illness.
  • Art journal through a loss in your life.  If you've lost someone you love, process it in your art journal.
  • Make art that is ephemeral .  Sand painting is practiced in many cultures, usually for healing purposes. Create beautiful patterns with sand on canvas.

If you prefer to cut and paste rather than draw or paint, these projects are for you.

  • Create a motivational collage .  Collage a vision board. Fill it with images you find motivating.
  • Create a face collage on a mask .  We all wear masks of some sort. This project lets you showcase what's in your mask and the face you put on for the world.
  • Create an intuitive collage .  Intuitive collage is a process of quieting your everyday mind and inviting imagery to express the story of your inner world.
  • Create a calming collage. Choose collage elements that you find soothing, calming or even meditative and combine them to create a collage to help you to relax.
  • Collage a painting .  Incorporate collage symbolism in a painting.

Crayons - 100 art therapy exercises

Examine aspects if who you are and how you see the world through these art projects.

  • Draw images of your good traits.  Creating drawings of your good traits will help you to become more positive and build a better self-image.
  • Draw yourself as an animal.  Is there an animal that you have a special interest in or feel like is a kindred spirit? Draw yourself as that animal.
  • Create a timeline journal.  Timeline the most important moments of your life through this writing therapy exercise.
  • Put together a jungle animal collage .  Choose jungle animals that you find the most interesting, draw them, and then reflect on why you've chosen these specific animals.
  • Sculpt your ideal self.  If you could make yourself into the perfect person, what would you look like?
  • Paint different sides of yourself.  Explore your many emotions through painting.
  • Make art with your fingerprints.  Your fingerprints are as unique as you are. Use ink and paint to make art that uses your fingerprints.
  • Draw yourself as a tree. Your roots will be loaded with descriptions of things that give you strength and your good qualities, while your leaves can be the things that you're trying to change.
  • Design a fragments box .  In this project, you'll put fragments of yourself into a box, helping construct a whole and happier you.
  • Paint an important childhood memory.  What was a pivotal memory in your childhood? This activity asks you to document it and try to understand why it was so important to you.
  • Write and illustrate a fairy tale about yourself .  If you could put yourself into a happily ever after situation, what role would you play and how would the story go? Create a book that tells the tale.
  • Design a visual autobiography .  This creative project asks you to make a visual representation of your life.
  • Create your own coat of arms .  Choose symbols that represent your strengths to build your own special coat of arms.
  • Draw a comic strip.  Enjoy a moment of levity with this exercise that will focus in on a comical event that happened to you.
  • Build your own website.  Websites are very versatile ways to express yourself. Build your own to express what's most important about you.
  • Create a box of values .  First, collage or paint a box the represents you. Then, place items inside the box that represent the things you value the most.

Paint - 100 art therapy exercises

Here you'll find a collection of projects that will help you be happy about what you have and express your gratitude for it.

  • Document your gratitude visually . What things are you grateful for in your life? Paint or collage a work that represents these things.
  • Create a family tree of strength .  This exercise honors those around you who support you. Paint those close to you who offer you the strength you need.
  • Make something for someone else .  Making something for someone else can be a great way to feel good and help someone else do so as well.
  • Make anchor art .  Who are the anchors in your life? In this project, you'll make an anchor and decorate it with the people and things that provide you stability and strength.
  • Draw all the positive things in your life.  Everyone has at least one good thing in life, so sit down and figure out what makes you happy– then draw it.
  • Sculpt your hand in plaster .  Explore the symbolism of hand casting.
  • Paint a rock .  Paint rocks for relaxation and fun.
  • Create a gratitude tree .  What are you grateful for? This clay project asks you to write those things on leaves to construct a tree.
  • Create a life map.  A Life Map helps you discover what you want for yourself and your life
  • Create a snowflake out of paper .  Write ideas about how you are unique on the snowflake.
  • Build a personal altar.  This is a highly personal project that will help connect you with your spiritual side and honor your resilience.

Inside the Mind

Take a look inside your mind to see what's going on with these projects.

  • Create blot art .  Like a classic Rorschach test, fold paper in half with paint or ink in the middle and describe what you see.
  • Mind Mapping.   Make a visual representation of your thoughts to figure out how your mind works.
  • Make a dreamcatcher .  Having bad dreams? Create this age-old tool for catching your dreams with a few simple tools.
  • Draw your dreams.  You can learn a lot from what goes on in your dreams, so keep a dream journal and use it for inspiration to draw or paint.

Painting - 100 art therapy exercises

If you're still looking for something to empower, help or soothe you, these projects may fit the bill.

  • Use natural materials .  Leaves, sticks, dirt, clay and other natural materials can help you get in touch with the natural world and the more primal side of yourself.
  • Explore archetypes .  Study the archetypes to help you explore how you see and create your world. 
  • Use your body as a canvas .  You don't need paper when you have your body. Paint on your hands and feet or anywhere else to feel more in touch with yourself.
  • Create spirit dolls.  Weave life and love into a creation by making something solely by hand with materials from nature.
  • Make art out of recycled items .  You can reuse old items that have meaning to you or just re-purpose something you have laying around. Either way, you'll get insights into how you can reshape and reevaluate your own life.
  • Collage with old photographs.  If you're uncomfortable using old photos you can make copies. Explore these mixed media techniques with your old photos.
  • Create your own interpretation of a famous work of art .  How would you have painted the Mona Lisa? Using a famous work as your inspiration, create your own work. It could help reveal more about your lens on the world.
  • Work collaboratively.  Art can be better when two work at it together, so find a partner and collaborate on just about anything.
  • Use a found or made object as a paintbrush .  Whether it's something sharp or something soft, make your own artistic tool and use it to express what you're feeling.
  • Make crayon stained glass.  Reflect upon your spiritual side with this project that lets you create your own stained glass window.
  • Paint a window.  Windows let you see in and see out. Paint yours with things you want to hide or show to the world.

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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.

emotions wheel exercise

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.

how I feel today exercise

  • 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.
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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.

unsent postcard exercise

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.

permission slip 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.

paper airplane exercise

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.

Architectural Style

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 [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

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.

100 Art Therapy Ideas and Prompts

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100 Art Therapy Exercises: Your Path to Harmony from Artistro | Artistro

100 Art Therapy Ideas & Art Therapy Exercises: Your Path to Harmony from Artistro

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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.

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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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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.

art therapy ideas-art therapy exercises- art therapy prompts- art therapy techniques- art therapy examples-therapeutic art-therapeutic activities- art therapy  projects

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

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100 Art Therapy Exercises

Here is a popular internet list of art therapy activities originally posted up in 2011 by the Nursing School Blog updated and expanded by Shelley Klammer, a therapist and an expressive art educator.

100 Art Therapy Exercises

Creative Therapy Ideas

Creative Therapy Ideas

Inspiring Resources for Therapists

5 Amazing Art Therapy Activities for Adults

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. 

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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.

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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.

art therapy infographic

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:

  • Photography
  • 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.

draw your wall art therapy activity for adults

  • 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.

identity collage art therapy activity for adults

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).

art therapy assignments

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. 

container drawing art therapy activity for adults

  • 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. 

Bridge drawing art therapy activity for adults

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. 

meaning machine series art therapy activity for adults

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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.

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.

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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.

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18 Art Therapy Exercises and Activities to do with your Clients

When you think about art therapy , what comes to mind for you? You may have initially thought of painting or drawing, nonetheless, there are other creative options that can be used. This includes writing, sculpture, collages, photography, textiles, and digital art. The medium that you use with your client will be dependent on their experience, preferences, and reaction to different forms of art therapy. Keep reading to learn 18 Art Therapy Exercises and Activities to do with your Clients.

As an example, if you have a client who struggles with anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, you may opt to avoid sculpting, as this may increase your client’s symptoms leading to more distress. Additionally, for some clients, you may find yourself leaning towards trying a new medium that they haven’t been exposed to impacting the possible outcomes that they can experience.

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Traditional psychotherapy, when used properly, can help clients navigate their lives in a healthy manner. Individual differences have an impact on the type of therapy used as well as the frequency and duration of treatment. As we work with clients, it is important for us to be mindful of the clinical gains that they are making, and determine if another approach would better fit their needs.

Art therapy can be used in individual, group, couple, and family sessions.  The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as:

“Art therapy is a mental health 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.”

Mental Health Concerns That Can Benefit From Art Therapy Exercises

Art therapy is a fantastic option for a variety of individuals who are living with mental health concerns. Art therapists are mindful of the art therapy exercises and the mediums they use with each client to ensure it is appropriate for them and their needs. Clients may have hesitations about engaging in art therapy because of their comfort with creative arts, so it is important to assure them that the benefit of art therapy comes from the process and not “how good” their art is. In actuality, they may end up surprising themselves with their creations!

Art therapy can be used with individuals who could benefit from the following goals:

  • Improve cognition
  • Improve sensorimotor functions
  • Improve self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Develop emotional resilience
  • Encourage insight
  • Enhance social skills
  • Improve conflict resolution skills

Research has shown that Art Therapy can be beneficial for clients who have the following concerns or characteristics:

  • Heart Failure
  • Negative symptoms associated with Schizophrenia
  • Trauma -related concerns
  • Prison inmates
  • Older adults
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Stress and distress

Art Therapy Activities

There are a number of art therapy exercises that can be used within each medium option. As mentioned above, it is important to consider any potential consequences or distress your client may experience from working with certain mediums.

Examples of art therapy exercises that you can use include:

  • Provide your client with materials, and ask them to draw out their stress. If they were to visualize their stress, what would it look like? Ask them about the different colors that were used, and lines that were made. Allow for time to process their experience.
  • Ask your client to paint how they feel. Encourage them to tune into their body’s sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Explore the colors they used and the visuals that they created. Allow for time to explore their creation, and discuss what they observed about themselves during this art therapy activity.
  • Ask your client to paint happiness. Be vague in your directions so that they can use their creativity to show what they feel happiness looks like. Allow for time to process their experience, as well as how they feel about the level of happiness in their life. Can they do anything to bring more happiness into their life?
  • After providing your client with the needed materials, ask them to draw a heart. Inside the heart, they can write emotions that they have been carrying. This can include emotions that challenge them and those that they are comfortable with. Allow for time to explore their experience with the exercise and their emotional experiences.
  • Provide your client with the needed materials. Ask them to draw how they are feeling, and use your time to explore the visual that they have created. Allow for time to explore their drawing, and exploring their emotional experience. 
  • This Before and After Worksheet can be used to explore changes that your client had after a specific experience. They will be asked to briefly describe the event, and then include the emotions that they felt in the space provided, which is shaped as a heart. Allow for time to process their experience with the identified event, as well as any long-term effects they have experienced from this event.  
  • Providing your client with journal prompts can be used as an art therapy exercise. To begin, ask your client to write about a time that they were happy. Encourage them to provide details and be specific. Allow for time to explore their experience, and what led to them choosing this particular experience for their activity compared to other options.
  • Ask your client to write a letter that they never intend to send. This letter can be written to their past self, future self, or someone with whom they have unresolved feelings. Once this is completed, ask your client to read the letter aloud in session. Allow for time to explore emotions that came up for them, and discuss what they would like to do with their letter (ie. save, rip up, crumple, or burn if possible).
  • Provide your client with this Past vs. Present Self Worksheet which asks your client to write down characteristics of their past and present self.  Once the writing portion of the worksheet has been completed, ask your client to draw themselves in the space provided. While you process this worksheet, you can place the sheets next to each other to show the mirror image of their head.
  • After providing your client with the needed materials, ask them to sculpt with an emotion that has been challenging them lately. Examples include loneliness, sadness, and anger. Appropriate questions for this art therapy exercise include asking why they chose to shape it as they did, and what their emotional experience was throughout the exercise.
  • Encourage your client to create something using their nondominant hand. This exercise can explore their ability to try something new and sit with emotions that may arise. This can include discomfort, frustration, and uncertainty. Spend time exploring their experience and processing the emotions and thoughts that came up during this art therapy activity.
  • Provide your client with the needed materials, and ask them to create a collage that brings them joy. They can include words, places, things, phrases, hobbies, and interests. Allow for time to explore how often they are able to engage in these activities, and if they feel they could include them more in their day-to-day routine.
  • Ask your client to create a collage of their life. Allow for time to explore the images that they choose, and discuss any concerns that they would like to improve upon.


  • Ask your client to take a picture, or photos, of something they find beautiful before your next session. In your next session, ask your client to share their photos. Spend time exploring what it is about the photo that they feel is beautiful, and how they felt during this art therapy activity. 
  • Ask your client to take a photo of themselves before their next session, and to bring a printed-out copy. In your next session, take time to ask them what they see when they look at their photo and explore remarks that stood out to you, the good and the bad.
  • With the needed materials, encourage your client to weave a project. Allow them to choose the color and other descriptions of their project. Allow for time to explore this experience, and any changes that they observed in their thoughts, emotions, and within their body. Explore how weaving can help cope with their mental health symptoms.
  • Knitting is an example of a textile art therapy activity that can be used to cope with stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Knitting can also help retain brain functioning and hand dexterity.
  • Ask your client to choose an existing art piece that they know of, and ask them to improve upon it. Why did they make the changes that they made, and how does their version impact them emotionally compared to the original? 

Final Thoughts On Choosing Art Therapy Exercises For Your Clients

While you may be able to incorporate different activities that resemble art therapy, it is important to recognize that individuals who offer art therapy are likely professional art therapists who have been trained in the application of art therapy. These professionals have earned their master’s degree in art therapy, which includes a supervised clinical internship. As stated by the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is a profession, not a modality.

If you are interested in learning more about how an art therapist can bolster your client’s treatment experience, we encourage you to consider  Continuing Education courses and other training opportunities. By increasing your knowledge and understanding of the application and benefits of art therapy, you can share your knowledge with clients who may benefit from working with an art therapist.

  • Hu, J., Zhang, J., Hu, L., Yu, H., & Xu, J. (2021). Art Therapy: A Complementary Treatment for Mental Disorders. Frontiers in Psychology , 12 , 686005.
  • Regev, D., & Cohen-Yatziv, L. (2018). Effectiveness of Art Therapy With Adult Clients in 2018-  What Progress Has Been Made? Frontiers in  Psychology , 9 , 1531.

Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC

Author: Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder , and trauma.

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100 Art Therapy Exercises for Mental Health

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

Art Therapy Exercises for Mental Health

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 assignments

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:

Art Therapy Exercises For Mental Health - Dance

  • 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.

Abstract Painting by Cristina Iordache

  • 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.

art therapy assignments

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.

Painting on apron - Cristina Iordache

  • 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.

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5 Art Therapy Exercises to Add to Your Self-Care Routine

By Anna Borges

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Creativity can be a wonderful way to support your mental health , and with everything going on in the world, it might be an especially healing and underrated mode of self-care right now. If the news cycle has you feeling stressed, hopeless, overwhelmed, angry, depressed, or any number of emotions, allowing yourself to get messy through art could be the outlet you’re looking for.

“Creativity is a wellspring, and you can always tap into it,” Leah Guzman , board-certified art therapist and author of Essential Art Therapy Exercises , tells SELF. “With guided support, such as art therapy, you can learn to cope with traumatizing events that are happening now or have happened in the past.”

To help you take your creative expression to a therapeutic level, we talked to two art therapists for a few exercises that can be done on your own to boost mental health. Before we get to those, though, let’s talk a bit more about art therapy.

What is art therapy?

There are a lot of misconceptions about art therapy, Deborah Farber , chair of the MPS Art Therapy Department of New Yorl City’s School of Visual Arts and a member of the Art Therapy Practice advisory board, tells SELF. People assume it’s only for kids, that it’s the same as taking an art class, or that it’s not “real” therapy. In reality, art therapy is often very similar to talk therapy —a space to explore psychological and emotional challenges with a therapist—but with the addition of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting.

“It provides you with another form of language and helps you express the things you don’t have words for,” says Farber. “Art tells you things about yourself—unexpected things burst forth, not just in the art but in the process of creating it.”

Many people assume art therapy isn’t “for them” for a variety of reasons, with a lack of artistic skill being among chief worries. But art therapists will be quick to tell you that you needn’t worry about that. Many art therapy exercises can be done with basic supplies (or even a computer) and don’t require any skill. “The focus of art therapy is on the process of creating art, not the art product,” says Guzman. “You don’t need to be an artist, just open to having new experiences.”

While seeking out an art therapist who can guide you in the long-term is the best way to reap the benefits of art therapy, there are ways to tap into art therapy in your own life, much the way you can apply tools from talk therapy after you leave your therapist’s office. Even if you’re not interested in full-blown art therapy, art-therapy-inspired exercises still have the potential to help you relax, express your emotions, and learn new things about yourself. The following exercises are wonderful places to start.

1. Create a safe space.

Farber suggests building or drawing a physical manifestation of a safe space or a sanctuary, whatever that means to you. “Consider things like your emotional needs, physical boundaries, and things that inspire safety and comfort,” she says, noting that with her clients, she typically uses fabric, cardboard, wire, wood, and other 3D materials to make the space as physical as possible. If you don’t have the supplies you need to be that crafty, consider drawing or creating a Pinterest mood board of photos and art you find.

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Art therapy exercises extend beyond creation, so make sure to engage in self-reflection during and after. “What’s going on in your body as you make it?” asks Farber. “Why do you associate safety with the colors, materials, and symbols you choose? What does your safe space defend against?”

2. Color a feeling wheel.

Even when we’re dealing with a lot of emotions , it’s not always easy to recognize them specifically. Identifying and naming a feeling is often the first step in dealing with it, so Guzman recommends a feeling wheel as an effective beginner exercise for anyone who wants to check in with themselves and become more aware of their emotions.

To do the exercise (which can also be found in Guzman’s book ), start by drawing a circle and dividing it into eighths, like a pie. Then write one emotion (like sadness, rage, frustration, shock, joy, or anxiety) in each section. Lastly, using whatever materials you have available, pick a color that resonates with that feeling and fill it in.

Pay attention to: “Which feelings did you write down first? Which feelings are you currently experiencing? Did you color any two emotions the same color? If you did, what does this mean to you? Are there more positive emotions or negative ones on your feeling wheel?” writes Guzman in Essential Art Therapy Exercises .

3. Make response art.

Chances are you have a song lyric , poem, prose passage, or quote that you connect with in some way. Farber suggests choosing one and using it as a basis to create art. Respond to it however feels right, whether through scribbling with a pencil, coloring with crayons or colored pencils, or whipping out some watercolors or clay. The point is to make physical your emotional response to the words.

As you work, ask yourself, “Why did you pick the particular prompt? What do the words bring up for you? How do you feel as you create the art? What are you trying to capture?” says Farber.

4. Get into some craft-ivism.

There is a long history of people using crafted handmade objects—such as quilting and embroidery—as a way to advocate for positive change, to protest, and to express their values. Since community, advocacy, and connecting with meaning are so often good for mental health and self-care, Farber suggests an exercise based in craftivism for healing, especially during these times. “By slowly working through a craft , it allows us to slow down and think about what matters to us,” she says.

Farber suggests starting simple, perhaps making a small pillow by sewing two pieces of felt together with some filling and hand-stitching a message of your choice onto it. “As you choose your words carefully, think about what you stand for,” says Farber. “What matters to you, and how can you express it right now? Make it a declaration.”

Beyond sewing and embroidery, there are many ways to mix art therapy and activism (making a really beautiful protest sign, for example). To take a deeper dive into this gentle form of activism, check out Craftivism: The Art and Craft of Activism , edited by Betsy Greer, or read these ideas for craftivism action to support the Black Lives Matter movement by the Craftivist Collective.

5. Use a nature walk as inspiration.

Incorporating nature into your art therapy practice is pretty much a two-for-one deal. Farber suggests going for a walk (safely with a mask and keeping distanced from others!) and collecting things you find that are interesting to you. That could be leaves, sticks, pine cones, rocks, or other found objects. When you return home, use your bounty to create a sculpture or an altar while concentrating on your senses. What does each material feel like? What drew you to it?

If you’d like to stick to more digital art therapy, Guzman recommends taking a nature photo walk, which you can do in her book or even by poking around on the internet. Instead of collecting materials to make something, create art as you go by taking or saving pictures of anything that is beautiful to you or evokes an emotion. As you do, pay attention to what comes up and consider what you’d name each photo. Then do whatever comes naturally with the photos, whether that’s pulling them up when you need a moment of calm or printing them out to create a lush collage that helps bring the outdoors into your home.

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What Is Art Therapy?

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

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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
  • Photography
  • 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.

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.

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, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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10 Unique Art Prompts for Casual & Therapy Art Groups

Prompts for Art Groups: Ideas for expressive prompts

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!

prompts for art projects for therapy groups

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

Galaxy by Kate Creech

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.

A blackout poetry setup

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 Expressive Art Splash

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

using the style of mari andrews as a prompt for expressive arts therapy

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”

An example of art made in response to the therapy prompt: 'how i'm really doing 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!

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).

Image of broken pottery that is in the process of being repaired with gold epoxy.

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

Results of a Paint Along with Bob Ross party

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.

Expressive Art mask making with air dry clay

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)

Expressive Art mask making with air dry clay

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.

whale box

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.

image of a book titled

Art Therapy for groups

by Marian Liebmann

( click here to purchase through an independently owned bookstore )

a book titled

Poeisis: The Language of Psychology and the speech of the Soul

by Stephen Levine

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I'm an artist, therapist, educator, and visual translator working to help make mental health education accessible to everyone. After a decade in tech, I transitioned to working in the mental health field and in 2019 earned a Master of Arts Degree in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. Learn more by reading about me or my therapy practice .

One Comment

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.

Comments are closed.

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15 Art Therapy Ideas to Banish Anxiety and Channel Your Emotions

by Aletheia · Dec 30, 2020 · 38 Comments

Image of an artistic colorful woman thinking of some art therapy ideas

Firstly, let’s get something straight: you don’t have to be an ‘artist’ to benefit from art therapy.

Your artistic repertoire could consist of drawing stick figures or ugly blobs that resemble pieces of turd and it wouldn’t make a difference. What matters are the emotional and psychological impacts of what you draw, paint or create!

If you regularly struggle with a lack of focus, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, stress, frustration, depression, anger or any emotions that you have difficulty processing, you absolutely need to consider giving art therapy a serious try.

Shadow Work Journal image

Like me, your art therapy practice could be as simple as having a cup full of pencils and a drawing pad next to where you work. Here is what mine looks like:

art therapy assignments

As you can see, there’s nothing fancy about what I’ve drawn. In fact, from your perspective, this page might look like a bunch of mental vomit that has landed on a perfectly nice piece of paper. In any case, its the benefits that count! And I can tell you that art therapy has had some tremendously positive effects on my ability to focus, process grief , express anger, and relax.

In this article, you’ll find a bunch of art therapy activities inspired by Russian art therapist and psychologist Victoria Nazarevich .

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is the safe, creative, and therapeutic process of expressing your inner thoughts, feelings, memories, and experiences through any form of art.

Art therapy usually involves techniques such as drawing, painting, sculpting, collaging, and other types of crafts that help create more inner self-awareness , understanding, and harmony.

Those who undergo formal art therapy with trained art therapists are often taught to reflect on their art and examine any emotional or psychological truths that may be inherent in what they create.

Art Therapy is For Children, Adults, the Elderly – Everyone!

No matter who you are, where you come from, how old you are or what you do, you can benefit from art therapy. There’s no doubt about it. So if you’re wondering “umm, is this really for me?” the answer is a resounding YES!

Shadow & Light Membership image

Children, for example, often benefit from art therapy because it helps them to process their emotions and learn the art of self-soothing . Adults benefit from the positive mental health impacts and the elderly benefit from the self-expression and social aspects of doing art therapy with others.

11 Art Therapy Benefits

Seeking out an art therapist will help you learn to ‘decode’ the various metaphors, symbols, and non-verbal clues buried in your artwork that reveal hidden wounds, fears, and desires. BUT … not everyone has the means to seek out professional therapy.

Thankfully, there are many books out there such as 250 Brief, Creative, and Practical Art Therapy Techniques which can help you become your own amateur art therapist. You can even join free online groups (such as those found on various social media platforms like Facebook) dedicated to art therapy, post your artwork, and receive insight from legitimate art therapists if that appeals to you.

Whether done by yourself (or with an art therapist), here are some wonderful benefits you can expect to enjoy:

  • Improved self-esteem and self-worth
  • Increased ability to self-soothe
  • Stress and anxiety relief
  • Improved emotional intelligence and processing
  • Increased ability to cope with chronic physical illnesses
  • Improved mental health
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills
  • Ability to face past traumas and emotional triggers
  • Improved communication skills
  • Increased focus
  • Emotional and mental catharsis (healthy outlet of self-expression)

And all this simply by putting a pen to paper!

15 Art Therapy Ideas and Activities For Beginners

Now, let’s get to the core of this article, shall we? You will find some amazingly simple and effective art therapy ideas and activities below:

Paint a rainbow:

Image of an art therapy ideas rainbow drawing

Make origami:

Image of origami art as therapy

3. Listless

Draw landscapes:

Image of a watercolor landscape

Draw lines:

Image of colorful lines drawn to express anger as an art therapy ideas

Draw grids and a target:

Image of drawn grids and a target for concentration

6. Need to make the right choice

Draw waves and circles:

Image of some circles and waves for art therapy

Paint with different colors:

Image of a colorful canvas

Tear a piece of paper:

Image of a torn piece of paper

9. Nostalgic

Draw a maze:

Image of a maze to express and feel nostalgia

10. Difficulty understanding wishes

Make a collage:

Image of collage art therapy ideas

11. Confused

Draw a mandala:

Image of an art therapy mandala

Draw spirals:

Image of a spiral drawn on black paper as an art therapy idea

13. Difficulty understanding feelings

Draw yourself:

Image of a sad face drawn on paper as an art therapy idea

14. Desperation

Draw roads:

Shadow & Light Membership image

15. Need to arrange thoughts

Draw cells or squares:

Image of cells and squares drawn for art therapy

There are so many benefits of art therapy that it’s worth taking the time to dabble and experiment. The point isn’t to create a beautiful piece of art, the point of art therapy is to express your inner feelings, thoughts, and unconscious struggles.

I hope these art therapy ideas and activities have inspired you. If you’d like to incorporate artistic self-expression into your inner work practice, see our soulwork coloring book .

How do you plan to incorporate these art therapy ideas into your life? Please share below along with any other therapeutic activities you already do to banish anxiety and channel your emotions!

15 Art Therapy Ideas to Banish Anxiety and Channel Your Emotions

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About Aletheia

Aletheia is a prolific psychospiritual writer, author, educator, and intuitive guide whose work has touched the lives of millions worldwide. As a survivor of fundamentalist religious abuse, her mission is to help others find love, strength, and inner light in even the darkest places. She is the author of hundreds of popular articles, as well as numerous books and journals on the topics of Self-Love, Spiritual Awakening, and more. [Read More]

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I would love an article about art therapy through dance!

Savannah Barr

I have high functioning autism and ADHD and anxiety and depression and learning disabilities and asthma


I used these on my boyfriend who has very bad anxiety and it seemed to improve how he felt. I love art and loved helping him with something I love.


This is an excellent resource, thank you for sharing I am going to use this with some of my mental health patients to aid in their recovery, many blessings to you Luna


Thank you so much for sharing these great ideas. I’ve started trying to experiment and try my hand at art to help me heal. I’m a little of a perfectionist, but I’m learning how to let go and create. I really like the bright colors all across the page idea and drawing on paper with the sharpies. One of the projects I’ve been working on is using a fine point sharpie pin to make freeform drawings with words intertwined. I keep trying and hope it helps.

joanne wolfe

Thank you, I feel better already.

Maryann Lobo D'Mello

As a Psychosocial practitioner -cum-psychologist, I have used Art therapy with children as well as adults. Venting feelings & seeking recourse or resolution helps them but it also becomes a medium to express creativity, self appreciation & personal accreditation. * On a personal level, as an artist, Art is very therapeutic: it gives me immense peace, joy, acceptance & gratitude. Other activities to banish anxiety & channel my emotions are: Poetry composition; my ‘Creative Diary’; Gardening & caring for my potted plants & beautifully large collection of Cacti; Creative writing; Playing the piano; Soprano singing & Creative designing. Thanks Luna & Sol for this mission of awareness, awakening, personal evolving & integration & regeneration. Maryann

As a Psychosocial practitioner -cum-psychologist, I have used Art therapy with children as well as adults. Venting feelings & seeking recourse or resolution helps them but it also becomes a medium to express creativity, self appreciation & personal accreditation. * On a personal level, as an artist, Art is very therapeutic: it gives me immense peace, joy, acceptance & gratitude. Other activities to banish anxiety & channel my emotions are: Poetry composition; my ‘Creative Diary’; Gardening & caring for my potted plants & beautifully large collection of Cacti; Creative writing; Playing the piano; Soprano singing & Creative designing.

Expressive Arts Therapy: 15 Creative Activities and Techniques

Expressive arts therapy

It is especially well suited to clients who lack the ability to articulate their inner world with words alone. These clients can use the many forms of creative arts to express themselves.

In this article, we will discuss expressive arts therapy by explaining the interventions used and the difference between expressive arts therapy and creative arts therapies. You will be introduced to expressive arts therapy techniques and ideas for your psychotherapy and counseling sessions, both with individual adults and groups.

The article will also introduce training programs and degrees in expressive arts therapy and present a brief review of some of the best books on the subject.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive CBT Exercises for free . These science-based exercises will provide you with detailed insight into Positive CBT and give you the tools to apply it in your therapy or coaching.

This Article Contains:

What is expressive arts therapy, expressive arts therapy vs creative arts therapy, 12 techniques and ideas for your sessions, 3 activities for adults and groups, training in expressive arts therapy, top 14 courses, programs, and degrees, 3 best books about expressive arts therapy, helpful resources, a take-home message.

Expressive arts therapy incorporates elements of all forms of creative expression into a multimodal expressive form of integrative psychotherapy (Knill et al., 2005).

Expressive arts therapists are proficient in interpreting creative expression, rather than arts practitioners who have trained in a specific form of therapy.

In expressive arts therapy, each client is encouraged to use multiple forms of creative expression to articulate their inner world, including drawing and painting, photography, sculptures using a range of materials from clay to paper mâché, music, drama and role-play , poetry, prose, and dance and movement.

Expressive arts therapy focuses on four major therapeutic modalities:

  • Imagination
  • Active participation
  • Mind–body connection

Human beings have used expressive arts as healing modalities since ancient times (Malchiodi, 2020). Expressive arts therapists facilitate multimodal creative expression, sometimes in one session, usually non-directively.

In other words, the therapist provides the materials, equipment, and media required to facilitate a client’s creative expression during the therapy session.

Dr. Cathy Malchiodi is a psychologist and expressive arts therapist who explains the four core healing practices when using expressive arts to work with trauma: movement, sound, storytelling through image, and silence through contemplative and self-regulatory practices.

Expressive arts therapy involves a multimodal integration of varied elements of the creative arts therapies into psychotherapy and counseling.

Creative arts therapies include art therapy, dance therapy , music therapy , drama therapy , and writing therapy . Creative arts therapists tend to be expert arts practitioners in one specific area who have gone on to train in a specific type of creative arts therapy (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).

For example, a painter who has graduated with a fine art degree may then complete graduate training in art therapy to practice as an art therapist, or a professional performer may train as a dance or drama therapist.

However, expressive arts therapists are not expert arts practitioners. Rather, they are proficient in the skilled use of expressive arts as an integrative intervention in psychotherapy (Knill et al., 2005).

Drawing in art therapy

1. Drawing and painting

Intuitive drawing and painting with pastels, chalks, acrylics, and watercolors can be useful for expressing emotions, mood states, or relational dynamics that are difficult to express in words (Laws & Conway, 2019; Stuckey & Nobel, 2010; Trevisani et al., 2010).

Take a look at the video under the next item for an example of an intuitive drawing session.

2. Sculpting

Clay sculpting during a session can be very therapeutic, as clay is moldable and remoldable. Clay can take a lot of impact, and sculpting can be used to represent abstract inner states, a self-image, and other people (Vaartio-Rajalin et al., 2020). It can then be stretched, pummeled, and flattened as a means of expressing emotions.

In the video below, expressive arts therapist Natalie Rogers uses the two techniques mentioned during a therapy session with the same client.

Mask making using a range of materials such as tissue paper, clay, or paper mâché can be a powerful tool for expressing the many different roles people play in different relationships and life situations (Jones, 1996).

It can also express personal strengths. In this article , art therapists Gioia Chilton and Rebecca Wilkinson describe how they use mask making while working with people in addiction recovery.

4. Movement

Movement can be a powerful form of self-expression to connect to the wisdom of the body and its innate healing capacity. This may include dance, but not necessarily.

Movement can relieve stress and can be a powerful tool for self-regulation (Jones, 1996). In the video below, somatic psychologist and dance/movement therapist Dr. Jennifer Tantia explains how she used movement to transform her client’s anxiety into a sense of agency.

Expressive journal writing can combine words, drawings, sketches, collages, or photos to represent emotions, thoughts, events, memories, aspirations, strengths, and other inner experiences.

The journal provides a safe place for a client to express their authentic voice and practice honest self-expression (Knill & Atkins, 2020).

It can help clients clarify thoughts and feelings and forge a deeper connection to their needs, aspirations, and goals. This activity can also be continued between sessions as an adjunct to therapy then discussed during sessions. In this article , expressive arts therapist Shelley Klammer explains the wider benefits of expressive journaling.

Poetry writing is a central technique in expressive arts therapy that aims to mobilize artistic language, symbolism, and poesy as the source of creative expression. Clients can be encouraged to write expressively but also share poems written by others that have moved them.

The video below is the trailer for the book Poetry in Expressive Arts: Supporting Resilience Through Poetic Writing  by Margo Fuchs Knill and Sally Atkins (2020) and presents examples of poetry written as therapy.

7. Role-play

We all play many roles in our lives – at work, in social situations, and in our relationships.

Drama therapy is a safe method for exploring these roles in a nonthreatening way (Jones, 1996). Masks and puppets can also be used to explore roles and express difficult feelings rather than participating in active role-play if a client is uncomfortable expressing themselves directly.

This drama therapy intervention enables clients to explore roles they dislike, roles they aspire to play in the future, and current roles they’d like to expand. Role-play may be used in interventions designed to enhance self-awareness, strengthen a sense of identity, and enhance relationships.

Collage can be used to make emotionally expressive images using cut-outs, photos, paints, and felt pens. The key to this exercise is working quickly and spontaneously, as free of internal verbal commentary as possible.

The expressive collage-making exercise by expressive arts therapist Shelley Klammer in the video below is designed to enhance self-acceptance.

9. Self-portraiture

Self-portraiture using a range of materials can be very cathartic, and a series of self-portraits can reflect how a client sees themselves changing over time. These can be made by drawing, painting, mask making, sculpture, photography, or mixed media using a combination of these materials.

10. Photography

Photography used in a therapeutic context is often called photo therapy or therapeutic photography (Gibson, 2018).

Photo therapy can enhance clients’ appreciation of their environment and what they love about their daily life. It can also be used to journal the healing process after trauma or loss.

In the TED Talk below, How Photography Saved My Life , Bryce Evans explains how therapeutic photography helped him recover from depression and anxiety.

11. Mandala making or coloring

Mandala making or coloring can be a wonderfully meditative exercise for emotional expression, centering, and self-soothing.

Mandala derives from the Sanskrit word for “circle,” and in Eastern religious traditions, mandalas are often used as an aid to contemplation and meditation.

To make a mandala from scratch, the client needs to draw a circle (perhaps tracing around a circular object or using a compass) and then fill the circle in with spontaneous patterns and colors.

Alternatively, mandala coloring books such as 150 Mandalas: An Adult Coloring Book With 150 Beautiful Mandalas in Various Styles for Stress Relief and Relaxation can be used to relieve stress and for self-soothing purposes (Koo et al., 2020).

12. Filmmaking

Filmmaking is another powerful expressive art form that is now available to most of us, given we can all make videos with our smartphones and edit them with various low-cost or free video-editing apps online.

This video trailer for the book Video and Filmmaking as Psychotherapy (Cohen et al., 2016) gives a taste of how filmmaking is being used in psychotherapy with veterans to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

All the techniques above are used in expressive arts therapy in conjunction with person-centered, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and mindfulness-based approaches to maximize and integrate psychological healing.

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.

The activity involves intuitively drawing or painting abstract representations of the things that stress your clients in response to the prompt ‘pressure.’ The idea is for clients to express how pressure makes them feel by making marks on the paper without judgment, rather than holding them in their bodies.

This exercise should begin with a brief mindful breathing exercise for each participant to relax and register their stress levels. Then, encourage them to make marks with colors that represent their feelings and draw and paint their problems away.

This video by Mindful Creative Muse for World Mental Health Day explains the process in more detail.

2. Guided imagery with music into a safe place

This activity can be conducted with individuals or in a group and was devised by music therapist Paula Higgins. For this activity, you will need space for clients to sit or lie down, yoga mats or cushions for them to lie on, and a device that can play music either using the video below or your own source.

The activity uses relaxation, guided imagery , music, and the mindfulness of breathing to create a sense of safety and stability. It could be particularly helpful for clients who are grieving, experiencing stress or anxiety, or in recovery from addiction.

You can download the transcript by clicking on the three dots on the right-hand side under the video and then clicking “open transcript.” You can copy and paste the transcript from the text box on the right. Adapt it for your session.

3. Mindful photography as phototherapy

This activity is again suitable for individuals or a group and involves slowing down through mindfully looking at photos to relieve stress through appreciation. Ruth Davey, the founder/director of Look Again has made a short video to give a taste of mindful photography and its benefits.

For this activity, each participant will need access to a digital camera of some sort. A mobile phone camera is more than adequate. Access to nature in either a garden or park is also preferable (Atkins & Snyder, 2017), as it’s much easier to slow down in nature than in a busy urban setting.

Participants benefit by relaxing, becoming more present, and through an enhanced sense of creativity and flow.

The International Expressive Arts Therapy Association has a searchable list of training programs. The following are some of the top courses available, from certificates to diplomas and degrees up to PhD.

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The best place to get started with expressive arts, is by learning more about it. Have a look at the following selection of courses, spread out over the globe.

1. Expressive Arts Florida Institute

Expressive Arts Florida Institute

The following courses range from an introductory online program to a series of campus-based master’s degrees in expressive arts therapy in conjunction with other approaches, such as coaching, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding.

  • Creative Wisdom – Introductory Online Training in Expressive Arts
  • Certificate Training Program in Intermodal Expressive Arts
  • Master of Arts Degrees in Expressive Arts Therapy; Expressive Arts Coaching and Consulting; and Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding (offered in conjunction with the European Graduate School, Switzerland).

2. Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, United States

Lesley University has a range of on-campus courses available from undergraduate to graduate certifications and a doctoral program.

  • BA in Expressive Therapies
  • Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Expressive Therapies
  • Graduate Certificate in Expressive Therapies Studies for mental health professionals
  • PhD in Expressive Therapies – low residency

3. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, United States

art therapy assignments

  • Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Concentration in Expressive Arts Therapy
  • Graduate Certificate in Expressive Arts Therapy

4. The European Graduate School (EGS), Saas-Fee, Switzerland

The courses listed below and other programs at EGS are the only expressive arts therapies training options currently available in Europe.

They offer hybrid study options that comprise a residential component on campus in Switzerland with other studies conducted at a university in your home country. Programs include the following:

  • Continuing Education CAS Expressive Arts Practice
  • Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Expressive Arts
  • MA degrees in the fields of expressive arts therapy
  • Doctoral program

5. The University of Hong Kong, Centre of Behavioral Health, Hong Kong

The University of Hong Kong

This graduate degree program with a duration of two years full time or three years part time at Hong Kong University is the only one available in Asia.

  • Master of Expressive Arts Therapy

These books are highly recommended and created by experts in the field.

1. Principles and Practice of Expressive Arts Therapy: Toward a Therapeutic Aesthetics – Paolo J. Knill, Stephen K. Levine, and Ellen G. Levine

Principles and Practice of Expressive Arts Therapy

This book begins by describing the philosophical foundations of expressive arts therapies in poiesis (creating by making) as an antidote to mind–body dualism and modern alienation as the root cause of many mental health problems.

This book will really appeal to practicing psychotherapists who want to understand how to incorporate expressive arts techniques into their existing approach.

Find the book on Amazon .

2. Nature-Based Expressive Arts Therapy – Sally Atkins and Melia Snyder

Nature-Based Expressive Arts Therapy

This book is also aimed at practicing therapists and helping professionals with an interest in expressive arts and ecotherapy.

This book explains how environmentally aware creative expression can be used to heal the relationship between human beings and nature that can exacerbate and even cause mental health problems from an ecotherapy perspective.

3. Trauma and Expressive Arts Therapy: Brain, Body, and Imagination in the Healing Process – Cathy A. Malchiodi

Trauma and Expressive Arts Therapy

This book is specifically aimed at therapists and helping professionals who work with trauma.

Malchiodi explains the neuroscience of trauma and how expressive arts can reprogram the nervous system through holistic acts of creative expression, by helping to process traumatic experiences that often evade language. has free resources that can help you introduce expressive arts interventions into your practice.

Try our Self-Love Journal worksheet, which provides 10 journal prompts for those clients needing to cultivate self-compassion.

Alternatively, try our Mapping Emotions worksheet, which uses visualization and color to enhance emotional awareness.

Our Positive Psychology Toolkit© also contains numerous expressive arts therapy tools, including Rewriting the Narrative With Humor, a tool for promoting emotional wellbeing and resilience using writing therapy to reframe a narrative about an embarrassing event with humor.

Also in the Toolkit is Drawing Grief,  an expressive arts tool that aims to help bereaved clients explore their thoughts and feelings about their loss through drawing.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enhance their wellbeing, check out this signature collection of 17 validated positive psychology tools for practitioners . Use them to help others flourish and thrive.

Some pre-linguistic symptoms from trauma, grief, addiction, and anxiety may be inaccessible to conventional language processing. New neural pathways can be built through creative expression, which is a much more potent approach than talking.

Expressive arts therapy is an intervention that can help heal the body and mind, with ancient roots in ritual, music, song, art, poetry, dance, and drama across all cultures.

And although this approach is relatively new to Western psychotherapy, it is growing in relevance as our understanding of the functioning of the brain and nervous system explains why expressive arts therapy can be so effective.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. For more information, don’t forget to download our three Positive CBT Exercises for free .

  • Atkins, S., & Snyder, M. (2017). Nature-based expressive arts therapy: Integrating the expressive arts and ecotherapy . Jessica Kingsley.
  • Cohen, J. L., Johnson, J. L., & Orr, P. (2016). Video and filmmaking as psychotherapy: Research and practice . Routledge.
  • Gibson, N. (2018). Therapeutic photography: Enhancing self-esteem, self-efficacy and resilience . Jessica Kingsley.
  • Jones, P. (1996). Drama as therapy: Theatre as living . Routledge.
  • Knill, M. F. & Atkins, S. (2020). Poetry in expressive arts: Supporting resilience through poetic writing . Jessica Kingsley.
  • Knill, P. J., Levine, E. G., & Levine, S. K. (2005). Principles and practice of expressive arts therapy: Toward a therapeutic aesthetics . Jessica Kingsley.
  • Koo, M., Chen, H. P., & Yeh, Y. C. (2020). Coloring activities for anxiety reduction and mood improvement in Taiwanese community-dwelling older adults: A randomized controlled study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2020 , 6964737.
  • Laws, K. R., & Conway, W. (2019). Do adjunctive art therapies reduce symptomatology in schizophrenia? A meta-analysis. World Journal of Psychiatry , 9 (8),107–120.
  • Malchiodi, C. A. (2020). Trauma and expressive arts therapy: Brain, body, and imagination in the healing process . Guilford Press.
  • Stuckey, H. L. & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing and public health: A review of current literature. American Journal of Public Health , 100 (2), 254–263.
  • Trevisani, F., Casadio, R., Romagnoli, F., Zamagni, M. P., Francesconi, C., Tromellini, A., Di Micoli, A., Frigerio, M., Farinelli, G., & Bernardi, M. (2010). Art in the hospital: Its impact on the feelings and emotional state of patients admitted to an internal medicine unit. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine , 16 (8), 853–859.
  • Vaartio-Rajalin, H., Santamäki-Fischer, R., Jokisalo, P., & Fagerström, L. (2020). Art making and expressive art therapy in adult health and nursing care: A scoping review. International Journal of Nursing Science , 8 (1),102–119.

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Dr. Jo, thanks for citing me and sharing the film! I appreciate it! What a great website, too. I have it bookmarked.

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14 best art therapy activities for anxiety.

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Takeaway: Exploring creativity through art therapy activities can be a powerful outlet for individuals of all ages seeking to navigate the complexities of anxiety. In this post, I’ll be sharing a curated selection of therapeutic art exercises you can try from the comfort of your own home. Additionally, I’ll provide some insights on recognizing signs that might indicate the potential need to seek the support of an art therapist. Let’s dive in!

Have you ever noticed how you feel a bit calmer when you’re doodling or lost in the world of coloring books? What if I told you that this simple act of creating art could be a key to unlocking deeper emotional healing and understanding?

Welcome to the world of anxiety art therapy, a place where your creative pursuits aren’t just a hobby, but a powerful tool for mental well-being. Unlike just any art-making activity, art therapy for anxiety is a structured approach recognized by the American Art Therapy Association. It’s all about using creative expression to tackle those nagging worries that can take over our minds.

In this article, we’re going to explore how art therapy works , its benefits, and some active art-making you can try at home. Whether you’re dealing with day-to-day stress or more complex emotions, art therapy offers a unique and creative path to finding peace and understanding within yourself.

anxiety art therapy activities

What is art therapy?

Art therapy for anxiety is a bit like using art for a special purpose – to help you feel better, physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s more than just your regular drawing or painting session; it’s about using these creative activities to work through your feelings and stress. It’s like having a conversation, but instead of using words, you’re using art to express yourself.

Now, you might wonder, “Isn’t this the same as when I sketch or craft at home to relax?” Well, there’s a small difference. Doing art on your own is definitely a fantastic way to unwind and let out your emotions. It’s like a personal form of self-care, which is really important.

However, art therapy takes this a step further. It’s done with the help of a trained therapist – someone who knows a lot about both art and how to help people deal with their emotions.

In art therapy, the therapist guides you through specific art activities designed to help you with any challenges you’re facing, like anxiety or feeling low.

It’s a bit like having a guide who helps you navigate through your emotions, using art as the map. They use their knowledge to help you understand what you’re feeling and find new ways to cope.

So, while making art at home is a great way to take care of yourself, art therapy is a more structured form of using art for emotional and mental well-being, guided by a professional. It’s a powerful form of self-expression to explore your feelings and work through them in a creative and supportive setting.

How can art therapy help with anxiety? 

Alright, let’s talk about how art therapy can be a friend to those of us dealing with anxiety.

Anxiety is like having a little alarm in your head that goes off too often. It’s normal to worry about things now and then, but anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or panic disorder are when these worries don’t go away and are so strong they mess with your daily life. This might look like feeling nervous all the time, having trouble sleeping or finding it hard to concentrate.

Art therapy is an effective treatment because it gives that alarm in your head a different job. Instead of worrying, you start creating. With art therapy, you don’t just chat about your feelings; you make art to express them. This could be through painting, drawing, sculpting – any form of art. It’s not about making a masterpiece; it’s about letting out what you’re feeling inside.

Now, why does this help with anxiety? When you’re focused on making art, your mind gets a break from all that worrying. It’s a bit like going on a mini-vacation.

When you’re engaged in this creative process, it’s like giving your nervous system a much-needed break. It helps bring you into a meditative state, shifting your focus from the whirlwind of anxiety to the calm of artistic expression.

This shift can provide immediate relief and help build emotional resilience. As you’re drawing or painting, you might find that you’re not thinking about your worries as much. This can calm your mind and body, making you feel less anxious.

Art therapy is also a way to understand your feelings better. Sometimes, it’s hard to put into words why you’re anxious. But when you create art, you find clues in your artwork about what’s bothering you. An art therapist – that’s someone trained to help you with art and talk about your feelings – can help you figure out these clues.

Remember, art therapy isn’t a magic cure. It’s like trying any new exercise for the first time; it might work great for some, but not as much for others. It’s a personal choice to use art therapy, and it’s okay if it takes time to see if it’s right for you.

So, whether you’re dealing with the everyday worries of life or something heavier, art therapists offer a creative and calming way to work through anxiety. Art therapy isn’t just about the art materials or the final product; it’s a journey of self-awareness, coping strategies, and psychological healing in a supportive therapy setting.

art therapy anxiety

Benefits of using Art Therapy Exercises for Anxiety 

You know, one of the coolest things about any art therapy exercise is that there’s no right or wrong way to make art. It’s all about what feels right for you and how it helps you deal with your anxiety.

A New Way to Express Yourself

Think of art as your personal language, one that doesn’t need perfect grammar or spelling. Whether it’s through a splash of paint, a simple sketch, or molding clay, each stroke or shape lets you express those tangled feelings inside. Art therapy exercise is all about getting those emotions out, without worrying about the ‘right’ way to do it.

Calms Your Nervous System

Ever noticed how time flies when you’re lost in coloring books or crafting? That’s your nervous system taking a breather. This happens because when you’re focused on art-making, your mind gets a chance to rest from the constant buzz of anxiety. And remember, there’s no ‘wrong’ way to color or craft. It’s all about what soothes you.

Boosts Your Self-Esteem

Here’s the thing: every piece of art you create is a victory, no matter how it looks. It’s a tangible reminder of your creativity and resilience. When it comes to art therapy for anxiety, it’s not about creating a gallery-worthy piece; it’s about the process and how it makes you feel. This is a great way to lift your spirits and boost your self-esteem.

Helps You Understand Yourself Better

As you create, you might start to notice patterns or symbols in your art that reflect your feelings. It’s like decoding a language that’s unique to you. This isn’t about making ‘correct’ art; it’s about letting your art help you understand your inner world better.

Offers a Greater Sense of Control

In the world of art making, you’re the boss. You decide every color, every line, every texture. This sense of control can be a big deal when you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety. It’s a reminder that, in the realm of creative expression, you call the shots, and there’s no pressure to do it the ‘right’ way.

So, grab those art materials and let your creativity flow. Remember, in art therapy, the journey of creating is just as important as the artwork itself. It’s a safe space where you can express, explore, and heal, all at your own pace and in your own unique way.

art therapy for anxiety

14 Art Therapy Activities that Help with Anxiety

If you’re struggling with anxiety, you might find some comfort in the world of art-making. These aren’t just any arts and crafts; they’re tools that can help soothe your mind and offer a creative outlet for those anxious feelings.From the focused calm of Zentangle drawing to the expressive freedom of painting to music, there’s a variety of activities you can easily do at home. They’re simple, effective, and a great way to explore your feelings through creativity. Ready to give it a try? Let’s explore some art therapy exercises that could help you find a little more self-confidence and a good deal more peace.

Therapeutic art activities to explore your creative expression 

Let’s delve into anxiety art therapy activities, highlighting their specific benefits like promoting mindfulness, calming the mind, and more.

1. Mindful Doodling or “Doodle Meditation”

Materials Needed: Paper, pens, or markers.

Benefit: Promotes Relaxation and Mindfulness

Instructions: Sit in a quiet space with your various materials. Start doodling without any specific goal in mind. Let your hand freely move across the paper, creating lines, shapes, and patterns. Focus on the present moment and the movement of your pen, allowing your mind to relax and wander. You may want to fill in the lines with beautiful colors or make funny faces in the shapes.

2. Art Journaling

Materials Needed: Journal or sketchbook, various art supplies (pens, paints, collage materials).

Benefit: Facilitates Emotional Expression and Reflection

Instructions: Select a theme or topic that resonates with you for each journal entry. Write your thoughts and feelings about this topic. Then, use your art supplies to visually express these thoughts next to or around your writing. This could be through painting, drawing, or creating a collage that complements your words.

3. Mixed Media Art

Materials Needed: Various art supplies (paints, markers, collage materials, found objects).

Benefit: Encourages Experimentation and Expression

Instructions: Begin with a base, like a canvas or thick paper. Apply a layer of paint as a background. Once dry, add other elements like cut-out magazine pictures, fabric pieces, or even small objects. Use glue or other adhesives to attach these items. Experiment with layering different materials to create texture and depth.

4. Zentangle Drawing

Materials Needed: Paper, fine-point pens, or markers.

Benefit: Promotes Mindfulness and Stress Reduction

Instructions: Draw a small square on your paper. Within this square, draw several intersecting lines to create smaller sections. In each section, draw a repetitive pattern or design . Focus on each stroke and breathe deeply, enjoying the calming effect of this artistic process.

5. Writing and Decorating a Letter to Yourself

Materials Needed: Paper, pens, decorative materials (stickers, colored pens, glitter).

Benefit: Encourages Positive Self-Talk and Reflection

Instructions: Write a letter to yourself that includes positive affirmations, accomplishments, and future hopes. Once you’re done writing, use your decorative materials to embellish your letter. You might add borders, and illustrations, or highlight key phrases that are particularly meaningful.

6. Photography Walk

Materials Needed: Camera or smartphone.

Benefit: Enhances Mindfulness and Perspective

Instructions: Take a walk in an area you find interesting or beautiful. As you walk, look for unique patterns, colors, or scenes. Use your camera to capture these moments. Try to see the beauty in ordinary things and focus on the details that make your surroundings special.

7. Nature and Eco-Art Therapy

Materials Needed: Natural materials (leaves, twigs, stones, flowers), glue, paper, or canvas.

Benefit: Connects with Nature and Enhances Environmental Awareness

Instructions: Collect various natural items during a walk. Back in your creative space, arrange these items on your canvas or paper. You can create a specific scene, a pattern, or an abstract design. Glue the items down to create a permanent piece, or simply enjoy the process of arranging them temporarily.

8. Self-Portrait

Materials Needed: Mirror, paper, colored pencils, or painting materials.

Benefit: Fosters Self-Understanding and Acceptance

Instructions: Sit in front of a mirror in a well-lit room. Start by sketching the basic outline of your face and features. Then, fill in with details, colors, and textures that represent how you see yourself or how you are feeling at the moment. Remember, this doesn’t have to be a realistic portrait; it can be as abstract as you like. You can even use other materials or visual representations to trace your face or body outline.

9. Painting to Music

Materials Needed: Canvas or paper, paints, brushes, colored pencils, music player.

Benefit: Stimulates Emotional and Sensory Awareness

Instructions: Select music that evokes strong emotions or memories. As you listen, use your paints to express what the music makes you feel. Let the rhythm, melody, and mood guide your color choices and brushstrokes. You can paint abstractly or create images that the music inspires in you.

10. Sculpting with Clay

Materials Needed: Clay, sculpting tools (optional).

Benefit: Grounding and Emotional Release

Instructions: Start your clay modeling by kneading the clay to make it pliable. Then, begin shaping it according to your mood or feelings. You can create a specific object, an abstract form, or simply focus on the process of manipulation. Use sculpting tools if you wish to add details or textures. Bring awareness to how your body feels as you form the clay.

11. Digital Art Therapy

Materials Needed: Tablet, smartphone, or computer with digital art apps.

Benefit: Enhances Creativity and Accessibility

Instructions: Choose a digital art application that suits your interest. You can experiment with digital drawing, painting, or even 3D modeling. Play around with different tools and features offered by the app, like brushes, colors, and textures. Create an artwork that reflects your current mood or thoughts, enjoying the freedom and versatility of digital media.

12. Watercolor Meditation

Materials Needed: Watercolor paints, water-colored pencils, brushes, and watercolor paper.

Instructions: Set up a calm, comfortable space. Start by wetting your paper and then applying watercolor in gentle strokes. Focus on the flow of the paint and the blending of colors. Allow yourself to be present in the moment, letting go of structured designs, and enjoy the fluidity of watercolors as a meditative process.

13. Fabric Collage

Materials Needed: Various fabric scraps, scissors, glue, canvas, or sturdy paper.

Benefit: Enhances Creativity and Emotional Expression

Instructions: Cut the fabrics into shapes or strips. Arrange them on your canvas or paper to create an abstract or representational design. Glue the pieces down in a layout that feels expressive to you. This tactile activity allows for a creative exploration of textures and colors, providing a unique way to express emotions.

14. Shadow Drawing

Materials Needed: Objects with interesting shapes, paper, pencils or markers, and a light source.

Benefit: Encourages Perspective Taking and Mindfulness

Instructions: For Shadow Drawing, set up your workspace in a well-lit area. Choose objects with interesting shapes and place them on or around a sheet of paper. Adjust a light source such as a lamp or use natural light to cast shadows of these objects onto the paper. Trace the outlines of these shadows with a colored pencil or marker, experimenting with the arrangement and lighting to create different effects. This creative process focuses on perspective, light, and shadow, offering a unique and mindful art experience.

Each art therapy exercise offers a unique form of expression and emotional exploration, providing therapeutic benefits such as stress reduction, mindfulness, and a deeper understanding of oneself.

art therapy activities for anxiety

Understanding when you might benefit from working with a professional art therapist

Navigating the ups and downs of mental health can sometimes feel like trying to solve a puzzle without all the pieces. Particularly when dealing with anxiety symptoms or feeling anxious, art therapy exercises can be a helpful tool in your self-care kit.

However, there are times when these home-based activities might not be enough, and that’s okay. Recognizing when it’s time to seek the guidance of licensed professionals, art therapy can help in managing your mental health challenges more effectively. Let’s explore some key signs that indicate it might be beneficial to work with a mental health professional.

When Home Activities Aren’t Enough

If you’re engaging in art therapy exercises at home but still find yourself struggling with anxiety symptoms, it might be a sign to seek more structured, professional guidance. A mental health therapist can offer tailored support beyond what a self-guided art therapy exercise can provide.

Difficulty Expressing or Understanding Your Feelings

When you find it hard to articulate or understand your emotions, especially in the context of anxiety, professional guidance can be invaluable. An art therapist can help you explore and express these feelings through creative means, enhancing your self-awareness and emotional clarity.

Encountering Negative Thoughts and Behaviors

If you notice that negative thoughts and behaviors consistently impact your daily life, this may indicate a need for professional intervention. An art therapist can assist in transforming these patterns into more positive and constructive ones, using creative strategies.

Overwhelming Stress or Anxiety Impacting Daily Life

When your stress or anxiety symptoms significantly interfere with your daily activities, relationships, or work, professional help can be crucial. An art therapist can collaborate with you to develop effective coping skills and strategies for managing anxiety in everyday situations.

Coping with Trauma or Deep-Seated Issues

If your anxiety is related to past trauma or deeply ingrained issues, professional mental health support becomes even more important. Art therapists are trained to navigate these complex emotions and can help you use art as a tool for healing and expression.

Persistent Anxiety Symptoms and Frequent Panic Attacks

Experiencing ongoing anxiety and frequent panic attacks is one of the more challenging situations where professional help is essential. An art therapist can offer specialized techniques to manage and alleviate these intense panic attack symptoms, helping to improve your mental health and quality of life.

anxiety art therapy

Start your healing journey with Art & Anxiety Therapy at Willow Mark Therapy

At Willow Mark Therapy , we’re not just about individual talk therapy sessions; we also offer special art therapy workshops that focus on wellness and self-care. Think of these workshops as your creative getaway – a space where you can explore art in a group setting while focusing on feeling good and taking care of yourself.These workshops are all about using art as a tool for relaxation and personal growth. Whether you’re painting, sculpting, or trying out a new form of art, it’s all done in a supportive, friendly atmosphere. You’ll get to meet others who are on their own journey of self-care and wellness, making it a great way to share happy moments and learn from each other.If you’re looking for a different way to unwind, de-stress, and give yourself some much-needed attention, our expressive art workshops might be just the thing. They’re designed to be easygoing and accessible, no matter your skill level. It’s all about taking a break, enjoying the process of creating, and discovering new ways to look after your mental well-being.Interested in joining one of our art therapy workshops ? We’d love to have you! Reach out to us at Willow Mark Therapy to find out more about our workshop schedules and themes. It’s a wonderful opportunity to focus on your wellness journey in a creative, inclusive, and fun environment. Let’s explore the healing power of art together!

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Jennifer caudle, lpc founder of willow mark therapy pllc


The articles are a great way to help in those moments when you need just a bit of encouragement or a helpful tool. We want you to get what you need, so please don't hesitate to reach out. We try to make it easy with convenient online scheduling, email, text, or call. We are here for you.   

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New York Post

Art therapy student accuses famed School of Art Institute of Chicago of antisemitism

A professor at a tony Chicago art school deliberately altered a final assignment so that it “uniquely targeted” an Israeli Jewish student who was pursuing a formal complaint about months of alleged harassment, a new lawsuit stated.

Shiran, a first-year student in the art therapy and counseling master’s program at the School of Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was subject to an “endless tide of hatred, discrimination, and exclusion” on campus, the Dec. 22 filing viewed by The Post read.

After several weeks of increased hostility, the mother of two informed SAIC’s outside counsel in early December that she wanted to pursue a formal investigation into her multiple complaints against her peers and faculty, the suit explained.

Two days after Shiran informed the attorneys of her decision, however, professor Sandie Yi — one of the faculty members Shiran complained about to the school and who is also named as a defendant in the suit — altered her course’s final assignment in ways that “uniquely targeted Shiran,” the suit claimed.

While the original assignment asked the students to write about their own fieldwork interests and to work through a hypothetical art therapy scenario, Part One of the new version asked the class to reflect on the “‘difficult conversations’” they had over the semester, according to the materials viewed by The Post.

“‘Difficult conversations’” was a phrase Yi frequently used “as a euphemism to refer to discussions about Israel,” the lawsuit alleged.

Part Two of the assignment required the students to review two image banks of drawings to assess their readiness to address certain topics in art therapy.

The image bank featured four children’s drawings of abuse — including one that showed what appeared to be an Israeli father and son speaking in Hebrew speech bubbles, the materials seen by The Post showed.

“You are a bad boy!” the father’s speech bubble reads, while the son replies, “Stop, dad, this is insulting,” Shiran’s lawsuit claims.

One of the other drawings also featured writing in an unidentified language.

“Of all the languages in the world, why are you picking [Hebrew]? Two days after Shiran files the formal complaint?” Shiran’s attorney, Steven Blonder, lamented to The Post Wednesday.

“There is no educationally defensible basis for that as part of the school curriculum and the school exam,” he said, while admitting that he did not know what the second featured language was.

Shiran was even more troubled by the second image bank, which asked the students to engage with drawings made by Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip during the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza war, the assignment viewed by The Post showed.

The five drawings — which show Gazan children and their families benign targeted by Israeli soldiers, tanks and helicopters — were set to be included in a canceled 2011 exhibit at the Oakland Museum of Children’s Art, according to the Huffington Post .

Yi’s decision to alter the final to include an “overwhelming amount of images about Israelis” was a “transparently deliberate effort to further harass and isolate Shiran” in the wake of her formal complaint about discrimination at SAIC, the lawsuit claimed.

“[The assignment is] the most outrageous act of discrimination I think I’ve seen in a long time,” Blonder told The Post.

The second part of the assignment was eventually removed after Shiran reported it to the school’s outside attorneys — but Yi still emailed the class asking them to report their disappointment about the canceled section to the administration, the suit continued.

In the lawsuit, Shiran accused SAIC of violating the Civil Rights Act, Illinois’ Human Rights Act and even failing to fulfill its own promises of an open, conducive learning environment by failing multiple times to address her concerns about anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli feelings on campus, the filing stated.

“The school has policies on its books, it needs to enforce them in an even-handed manner,” Blonder said.

“It’s one thing to have a policy on the books, it’s one thing to espouse platitudes, and it’s another thing to live up to those ideals,” he added.

“We are aware of the complaint. We respect student and employee privacy interests and do not comment on pending litigation,” the SAIC told The Post via email.

“The School strongly condemns antisemitism and any discrimination based on religion, nationality, or any other aspect of a person’s identity. We have policies in place that prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and the School is unequivocally committed to providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all of our students, faculty, and staff,” it insisted.

In addition to the distressing final assignment, Shiran’s lawsuit included months of supposed antisemitism at the hands of her peers and faculty that increased following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack on southern Israel.

While Shiran tried to cope with the aftermath of the attack — including concerns for her parents, who live in northern Israel and are under threat from Hezbollah in Lebanon — she also faced “pervasive anti-Israeli and antisemitic rhetoric” from her fellow students and faculty, according to the filing.

The troubling material included media that referred to Israel’s retaliatory ground assault on Gaza as a “genocide” — a vocabulary choice Shiran personally objected to— as well as a social media post from professor Mika Tosca that called Israelis “pigs” and “very bad people.”

A few weeks later, the lawsuit claimed, Yi and professor Deborah Ann DelSignore allegedly “blatantly [misled]” Shiran into participating in a class discussion that devolved into a “diatribe” of criticism against Israel, according to the filing.

In another incident, another student in Yi’s class refused to work with Shiran on a joint presentation because “she was ‘simply unable to work closely with any individual who denies the genocide so clearly taking place before us [in Gaza].’”

Yi — who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit — also “continued to facilitate additional, one-sided student-led conversations expressing vitriol towards Israelis,” the suit alleged.

During this time, Shiran sent multiple communications to members of the faculty and administration — including one in which she asked “Violent words often lead to actual violence. How can I feel safe at SAIC?” — the lawsuit claimed.

All of these missives, however, went unanswered until Nov. 17, when the school’s Title IX office informed Shiran that outside attorneys were looking into her complaints.

In her lawsuit filed last month, Shiran is now seeking injunctive relief preventing SAIC from discriminating against Jewish and/or Israeli students, as well as money damages and attorneys’ fees, the filing stated.

Complaints like Shiran’s are part of a “larger trend,” Blonder told The Post.

“[Oct. 7] brought a lot of antisemitism to the fore, things that may have been behind closed doors before …it’s not OK anymore. And it’s now front and center and it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with,” he said of the ongoing conversation about antisemitism on college campuses.

The way SAIC handled Shiran’s concerns for her safety, he added, was a “stain” on the prestigious institution’s reputation.

The lawsuit could also have implications for Shiran’s personal life: Her father-in-law is on the Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago, and she and her husband are named alongside her in-laws on the museum’s website for contributing to the purchase of a 17th-century painting in 2018.

Blonder declined to comment on the impact of Shiran’s experience at SAIC on her in-laws’ ties to the institute but did confirm that his client plans to continue pursuing her master’s degree at the school.

“[Shiran] signed up to get a world-class education in art therapy. She’s paid her tuition and she intends to follow through on that,” he insisted.

“She wants to make a difference, she wants to help people. But she wants to be able to enjoy the program like other students do,” he added.

Art therapy student accuses famed School of Art Institute of Chicago of antisemitism

Moscow, Idaho

“Intersections” Opens at Third Street Gallery

October 10, 2022   (Moscow, Idaho)  — The City of Moscow and the Moscow Arts Commission invite the public to attend the opening of  Intersections , an exhibition of new work by John Larkin and David Herbold, at the Third Street Gallery from 4 – 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 20.   Larkin and Herbold’s work will be available to view on the 2 nd  floor of the Third Street Gallery inside Moscow City Hall, as well as in The Box Gallery on the 1 st  floor. The artist reception, which coincides with Moscow’s 3 rd  Thursday Artwalk, will also feature refreshments by Moscow Brewing Company and the Moscow Food Co-op, live music by Allison and Janet Anders, and a special presentation of UI Art + Design student paintings on the 3 rd  floor of the gallery.   The exhibition will be available for public viewing from October 20, 2022 – January 6, 2023. Third Street Gallery is located inside Moscow City Hall at 206 E. Third St. and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.    About John Larkin I was born the fourth of six boys in Zaragoza, Spain in 1960, and lived in Europe and Asia as a child, graduating from Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan. Go Dragons! I got a degree in sculpture from the University of Idaho in 1984 and worked as a freelance industrial designer specializing in bicycle helmet design until retiring recently. Since then I have been keeping busy building a studio, traveling, making knives, sculptures, and paintings. I live in Moscow with my wife, Melissa Rockwood.   I am “red-green” color blind. As a result, all tortoiseshell-colored cats look green to me. Now, I have been  informed  that cats are not green, but they are most certainly 100% green to me! Cat Green. Knowing this makes me wonder what kind of odd colors I’m using in my paintings which in turn opens up the question of art and perception.   Looking at art, we have the rare opportunity to see through another person’s eyes. In that way it can act as a bridge between people. When we experience the world as seen by another human it helps us understand each other.   There are so many beautiful things to see in the world; a band of sunlight on a wooden floor, a stand of rustling aspen trees, cloud shadows moving over a hill. I take photos, but they rarely capture the sense of wonder I feel.   So for me, making art is an attempt to express the essence of that beauty. “Style” follows without thinking, because I see the world in my own unique way, green cats and all.   About David Herbold I was introduced to art at a young age. The first gift I can remember buying for my parents was a ceramic vase from a potter’s studio up the street from the house where I grew up. I was very lucky to have supportive parents and public schooling that always had thriving arts programs. In high school, I had a dedicated ceramics course with an amazing teacher (thanks Cindy Irby). My first job at 14 was working at a handmade tile factory. I graduated from high school and was off to Bozeman, MT, (where I was born) to attend Montana State I was already set on pursuing art for my undergraduate degree. I learned valuable lessons from my mentor Michael Peed about making narrative ceramic work and how to approach and maintain making art as a life pursuit. I have been very fortunate to have lived in Germany for two years of my youth and studied art in Italy for a year in college. Since graduating with a BFA from Montana State in 2000 I hopped around quite a bit but have always maintained a studio practice and a bushel of other jobs. In 2008 I moved to Moscow to attend the University of Idaho to pursue an MFA in Studio Arts. I received my MFA in 2011, married my wonderful wife the day before graduation and we started our life together. We continue to live in Moscow with our 2 sons and pets.   I love making things. I also love collecting materials and objects. I am not sure what happens first: an idea for a piece or the idea to make use of materials I have collected. It is always easier for me to start from something and change it. I enjoy working in diverse media and mediums but clay is my comfort blanket. I continue to use clay, but I have been spending an increasing amount of time in my studio with found materials and functional objects.

Moscow Day School collecting for a community-focused kids’ winter gear swap

Moscow downtown streetscape study public meeting, change location, find awesome listings near you.


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    100 Art Therapy Exercises "The healthiest form of projection is art." ~ Fritz Perlz Here is a popular internet list of art therapy activities originally posted up in 2011 by the Nursing School Blog.

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    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.

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  8. 100 Art Therapy Exercises for Mental Health with Examples

    Other art therapy exercises for mental health involve sculpting, acting, dancing, but mostly, creating something new, validating and accepting your emotions and moving on. 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 ...

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    worksheet Masks are an excellent technique to have in your art therapy tool bag, especially for groups. This project encourages self-reflection, expression, and it will sometimes allow you to start difficult conversations. Even some of your most private clients might be willing to share what they've created. Plus, it's fun... Postcard Art Activity

  15. Expressive Arts Therapy: 15 Creative Activities and Techniques

    In expressive arts therapy, each client is encouraged to use multiple forms of creative expression to articulate their inner world, including drawing and painting, photography, sculptures using a range of materials from clay to paper mâché, music, drama and role-play, poetry, prose, and dance and movement.

  16. Drawing Therapy Techniques to Relieve Stress

    Conditions Discover Drawing Therapy: 7 Art Therapy Techniques to Relieve Stress What is art therapy? Benefits How-to Drawing exercises Recap Drawing can be an act of self-care — releasing...

  17. 14 Best Art Therapy Activities for Anxiety

    Takeaway: Exploring creativity through art therapy activities can be a powerful outlet for individuals of all ages seeking to navigate the complexities of anxiety. In this post, I'll be sharing a curated selection of therapeutic art exercises you can try from the comfort of your own home. Additionally, I'll provide some insights on recognizing signs that might indicate the potential need ...

  18. About Art Therapy

    Art therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and ...

  19. Find a Provider

    Find an ART Certified Provider. Enter your address, a provider name, or click on the map to search for the nearest ART® Providers. Click on the blue markers for more information, including directions to the providers location. ... Elite Physical Therapy and Wellness . Phone: 308-633-4440 . [email protected]. Fax: 308-633-4442 ...

  20. Moscow

    Moscow (/ ˈ m ɒ s k oʊ / MOS-koh, US chiefly / ˈ m ɒ s k aʊ / MOS-kow; Russian: Москва, tr. Moskva, IPA: ⓘ) is the capital and largest city of Russia.The city stands on the Moskva River in Central Russia, with a population estimated at 13.0 million residents within the city limits, over 18.8 million residents in the urban area, and over 21.5 million residents in the metropolitan ...

  21. Vittoria

    theparisianmole on February 12, 2024: "If you are moving to Paris and you are wondering "how can I make new friends?" here is part 3..."

  22. Art therapy student accuses famed School of Art Institute of ...

    A School of Art Institute of Chicago professor targeted an Israeli Jewish student. An assignment included a child's drawing of abuse featuring Hebrew, according to a lawsuit.

  23. 100 Art Therapy Exercises

    100 Art Therapy Exercises "The healthiest form of projection is art" ~ Fritz Perls Here is a popular internet list of art therapy activities originally posted up in 2011 by the Nursing School Blog.

  24. Moscow's GES-2 House of Culture Opens a New Era in Art

    GES-2 envisions a large program of educational activities, some in collaboration with several Moscow universities. In keeping with its mission to make contemporary art more accessible ...

  25. "Intersections" Opens at Third Street Gallery

    October 10, 2022 (Moscow, Idaho) — The City of Moscow and the Moscow Arts Commission invite the public to attend the opening of Intersections, an exhibition of new work by John Larkin and David Herbold, at the Third Street Gallery from 4 - 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 20. Larkin and Herbold's work will be available to view on the 2 nd floor of the Third Street Gallery inside Moscow City ...