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Hi! My name is Lydia Bruhn and I have been studying Art Therapy for the last two years. I would love to share with you a bit of what I have learned and invite you to join me in art therapy sessions if it sounds like an approach that would be helpful for your mental health goals!

What is “Art Therapy”?
Art therapy is the use of art materials (like charcoal or paint) and processes (like collage and bilateral drawing) to achieve mental health goals.
What does a session look like?
I can only speak for my own sessions, but I like to structure my sessions something like this:

1. Check in with the client (“How are you? How was your weekend?” Maybe a somatic exercise or expressing with one color how one is feeling, etc.)
2. Art Intervention (based on mental health goals, perhaps one previously discussed, or ones that come out in the check-in) – I might present a couple ideas for the client to choose from.
3. Creating – While the client is working with a material, I might create something alongside (for those who might feel uncomfortable creating alone with someone else present) or I might solely witness the process if the client preferred.
4. Processing – I invite the client to share what it is that they created and its significance for them in light of the client’s mental health goals. Sometimes the creating itself helps someone reach their goals, sometimes the process of creating brings up self-awareness and helps with processing needed next steps that may or may not be art-based.
5. Closure – this could be as simple as summarizing what we covered in the day or deep breathing, etc. as a way of regulating after a time of therapeutic work. I like to tailor this to each client, and often include some discussion with the client about what they can do between sessions to work towards their goals.

How could art help someone?
Here are just a couple of art therapy interventions and brief explanations of how they could benefit someone (Note: the outcome of work in art therapy does not need to look beautiful or follow artistic “rules” – its purpose is to serve the client in reaching their mental health goals!):

Above – Bilateral Drawing: this approach can be used to draw awareness to one’s physical/emotional experience, as well as to release energy that has been stored in the body due to traumatic experiences.

Above – Collage/Creating a Box: Collage work can bring out deep symbolism, which can help someone process their emotions and experiences.

Creating a box can build someone’s sense of self-efficacy and connection to the here-and-now as well. Additionally, the box could be used as a tool for metaphorically containing emotions when they become overwhelming.

There are almost limitless ways to use art in art therapy, but I hope the above examples help give you a glimpse of the possibilities.

What if I’m Not an Artist?
If you are not an artist, creativity could actually be easier for you to access in a therapeutic way, as you may be less focused on various principles of design and more able to express and create for healing purposes alone. However, that being said, training in art does not need to be a hindrance either to using art for therapy. As long as you are willing to let go of self judgment regarding your creative endeavors and try something new for therapeutic purposes, art therapy could be for you!

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