Expressive Arts Therapy is for Everyone

“I don’t know how to do art. Who, me? Who am I to do art?”

Somehow, you have this idea that art is only for the especially talented people who call themselves artists…  and of course, for kindergarten kids. “Who am I to do art?” you say. “I can’t do art, I don’t even know where to start”.

In fact, your idea of doing art is probably limited by your conception of your second grade art teacher who told you to make a pretty picture and to color within the lines. It was a time where you were judged and graded for your aesthetic ability, and perhaps you see your artistic abilities as being only at a level of drawing stick people or doodles.

Well, I’m here to tell you to forget those misconceptions! In Expressive Arts Therapy, no one is appraising your artwork, and there are no grades awarded.

You may not realize it, but you can do so much more than you think. Until you try the materials in your own way, you won’t know the reality of what the art can do for you, or what you can do with it. You simply need to try for yourself!

It’s only natural to approach the unfamiliarity of art materials with trepidation, fear and wariness. Since you do not fall into the category of kindergarten-er or paid artist, you worry that it is specifically reserved for those with talent – but EXAT is not about creating a perfect piece of artwork. In fact, there is no need to show others your work or to demonstrate any skill.

So you say art isn’t for you. But you can experience art for yourself if you have the desire and willingness to try something new. It’s about trying on new experiences and taking risks – what would it look like to take a chance and try to draw a symbol, mark, sign, swoosh or swatch. Anyone can doodle! Using pictures can come naturally, with a little effort and practice.

Each attempt that you make at doing art helps you develop a greater level of comfort with the material.

Just simply don’t call it “art” – that’s too much pressure.

Instead, pick up the pencil, the oil pastel, the paintbrush… and just play. Draw really simple sketches, make marks, make scribbles, just move your pencil in any direction on the paper and see what happens. Let go of your expectations of what art ‘should’ look like. And forget about your previous experiences with drawing where the inner critic reared its ugly head and told you that you had no skill. Silence that voice, just for a few minutes, so that you can see what you want to draw and draw naturally.

Imagine instead, being a scientist – you are standing back, not attached to the outcome, remaining impartial and unbiased as to the results. You approach art making with a sense of freedom, seeing it as a matter of trial and error, finding your own way and allowing the art to talk to you. Just experiment with different kinds of shapes and lines. Cultivate a respectful attitude towards what arrives through the art and be open to what your unconscious reveals to you.

You may fear that you will look silly or childish. After all, mature adults don’t have time to draw. Art making challenges yourself concept of being a responsible and reliable adult. But what would it be like to just be throw down on a canvas or piece of paper. What freedom there is in doodling and just getting out a pencil and some paper, creating the unknown, and moving into that land of awe and amazement. Look out, you are in for a surprise!

Express what you are feeling and let go of those ‘should’s’.

Try out a new medium like watercolor pencils, feel the water on the paper as you try to guide it in a series of random marks.

Try different colors and see what you like best – don’t try to think, just improvise and allow yourself the freedom of expression. Trust in what comes up from the unconscious, trust your hands, stay with your feelings. The art experience can be an introspective, meditative and  peaceful experience if you can drop into the body and relax. Feel free to use your body, your hips and your shoulders, you hands– just move to your own beat. Trust your body’s inherent wisdom of how to move and sense into the process of making art. Don’t stop to analyze and critique, don’t evaluate what you see before you.

Each session of Expressive Arts Therapy starts with warm ups and doodles, sometimes therapist and client create together… before we get into the main portion of the art. This gives the body time to play and explore, to express and release. I guide you into the process of making the art, slowly and gradually. We also work with free association, guided imagery and changes in perspectives as I lead the artwork. You are never alone. When you are done, we will dialogue with the art. “What does your drawing say about you?” I might ask. I will ask you questions to help you go deeper within, and as you go inside, you will receive real answers that relate to your life’s challenges. This is a chance to look within and be real with yourself. The experience of making art is a powerful one, a way to connect to your senses, to make sense of yourself gently and with ease.

You are simply playing and entering a childlike essence – and it is in this arena of play, that you find healing and resilience, that ability to overcome life’s demands. You develop a loving affection for what emerges from your art work. You are the expert of your hardships and suffering and will be the one who finds clarity through the art.

My job is to get you there!

Join me in helping you uncover the “gifts” that arise out of the art experience through Expressive Arts Therapy.