Popular Posts

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Inspiration Bags

Inspiration Bags
An Art Therapy Directive

Description:  Often clients may need to have something to do at home, or during the times they are not in the art therapy office. This directive allows the client to have a resource readily available to her so that when she is feeling stressed, anxious, or just wants to relax she can pick up this bag, look inside and get inspired to be creative.

Materials:  A small paper bag with handles, various arts and crafts items such as crayons, pipe-cleaners, glue, decorative paper, white paper, and many quotes that are cut out individually and randomly placed in the bag.


First – Explain the purpose of the Inspiration Bag to the client. She is to choose a quote that speaks to her, either randomly or purposely choosing one. After this she is to create an art piece that is an expression of what that inspirational piece means to her. (Note: Make sure to explain that the bag is not to be opened until the client is ready to do something creative and have fun. This will set the client up to see it as a positive and possibly intriguing directive to explore, allowing her to feel more free from expectations and to also begin to explore “choice” and the freedom to choose.)

Second – Let the client know that although there are structured directives (typed out with instructions on a piece of paper) she does not have to create something based on these directives. She can create an unstructured piece of art if she wants, depending on how she is feeling. This is an opportunity to explain the difference. However, it is not necessary so long as you emphasize to the client that she can follow her own intuition.

Third – After the client takes the Inspiration Bag home and works on it, ask the client to bring in what she created to show you and share about what was created.

Fourth – Discuss what was created by the client at home from the bag. You can talk about the inspirational quote that was picked. What did it mean to her? What was the art piece that was created?

Fifth – Once she has shared about the directive, you can ascertain if she needs to do a reparative second piece, which will redirect her to a more positive and empowered view point. (Use your discretion with this.)

Sixth – Give positive affirmations for the work created and continue to focus with the client on the process rather than the end product. Determine whether the client needs more guidance or is able to self-direct with minimal feedback. Determine continual art therapy directives based on these outcome.

Follow-up Questions: 

1)      Tell me about the art piece you created. How did it go?

2)     What inspirational piece did you choose?

3)     Did you work on a structured or unstructured approach? How did that go?

4)     What was your favorite part of the directive/artwork?

5)     How did you feel after completing the art piece/directive?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Recovery Book

The Recovery Book
An Art Therapy Directive

(This directive was originally created by Libby Schmanke, MS, LCAC, ATR-BC, http://www.artandinsight.com/ in her work with elderly. An amazing art therapist, Libby designed the directive so that each of the seasons reflected a different part of life.
It's a wonderful directive that is also very versitile!)

In a simple, straight-forward way, this directive has the client go through the steps for recovery by using the symbolism of the four seasons.

Description:  Using the four seasons the client creates a short, 8-page book that outlines where she is in the recovery process and what she has to expect as she recovers. It can also be designed as a reflection book on the process that the client has been through to get to recovery from an addiction. This book can be as simple or complex as you and the client would like to make it (depending on the needs of the client).

Materials:  Colored construction paper, cut-outs of white paper circles that have images that represent the 4 seasons (having several options available to the client to choose often has the effect of increasing the client’s sense of control), markers or colored pencils, glue, and ribbon (again, providing options helps the client feel more creative/free).


First – Get the materials ready by cutting out four pieces of the construction paper and hole-punch the upper left-hand corner of each (to put the ribbon through, connecting the book). Also print out and then cut in to circles images that represent the four seasons.

Second – Have your client choose what images she would like to use for all four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter). Discuss during this time how each season can symbolize the four stages of recovery (Spring = “Sprouting” or “New Beginnings”, Summer = “Blossoming/Growing”,Fall = Harvesting, and Winter = “Celebrating”. Note = you may want to type out each of these words so the client can place them on the corresponding card as a reminder of what each season represents in recovery).

Third – Once the client has chosen the images and words representing each season, have the client color her images, choosing colors that represent for her the experience of both the season and the time of recovery.

Fourth – When the client is done coloring, have the client glue the image on to one side of the page, and a blank piece of paper on the flip side of the paper.

Fifth – Have the client write down what that season meant to her in her recovery in the blank piece of paper, once the glue has dried.

Sixth – Now, the client can choose a color of ribbon to tie the book together. Encourage the client to share what she has created.

Follow-up Questions:

1) Tell me about your Recovery Book. What did you put in it?

2) What season do you feel like you are in with your recovery?

3) Even though you may not have reached the season you want to be in with your recovery, can you imagine what it will be like when you get there?

4) What do you feel it will take to recover?

5) How was this experience for you?

Alternative Procedure:  You can also have client (or the client may request to) create a Recovery Book by using blank circles where she can draw images in herself. This allows more freedom and less structure. It may be important to begin with structure and then later work towards more freedom. Each client will be different at different times, so it will be important to gage the needs of the client at the time of doing the directive.

Outcome: This exercise is designed to have your client get more in touch with 1) How far she has come, 2) What she has to look forward to in her recovery, and 3) Puts a positive spin on her recovery. It can also help to facilitate a great deal of discussion regarding recovery goals, struggles, realistic expectations, and what it will take to be successful in reaching the goals.

Web-Sites/Reference Material:

The Addiction Recovery Guide - http://www.addictionrecoveryguide.org/

Art Therapy as a Treatment for Drug Addiction - http://www.ehow.com/way_5451808_art-therapy-treatment-drug-addiction.html
Art Therapy for Recovery from Drug Addiction - http://www.drugalcoholaddictionrecovery.com/?p=53

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Boundary Drawings

Boundary Drawings
An Art Therapy Directive

Often, people do not understand how boundaries work. This directive helps to define, highlight, and then create the establishment of healthy boundaries/limits. If there were ever an art therapy directive that makes a HUGE difference, this directive would be IT!


Knowing when to say “yes” and how to say “no” can often be a challenge for people. If a client grew up in an abusive (physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, etc.) environment, that person may have been taught that it is not OK to say “no”. The person may have been taught that their body is not their own. In this directive you will do a simple exercise with the client to begin to explore the importance of healthy boundaries – identifying what they look like, how they work, and beginning to implement them in their lives.



            White paper, Colored Pencils or Magic Markers or Crayons       



1)       Begin the session with defining what boundaries are.
a.      There are boundaries/limitations used in every aspect of life, including but not limited to:
                              i.      Relationships
                             ii.      Work       
                             iii.      Time
                             iv.      Health
                              v.      Money
b.      There are three types of boundaries (draw out an example of each of these boundaries quickly):
                              i.      There are overly RIGID boundaries… (This person has shut herself off to the world around her/him, saying "NO" to the bad things, but also saying "NO" to the good things in life. This person feels isolated and lonely, at the expense of feeling in control.)
                              ii.      There are overly WEAK boundaries… (This is where the person cannot say "NO" to anyone. Instead they say "YES" so often that they begin to feel overwhelmed, out of control and unhappy about their lives. They are afraid of saying "NO" because they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, or they don't want to make anyone made, or they just don't think they have a right to say what they will do with their lives and what they won't.)
                                  iii.      There are HEALTHY boundaries. (This is where the person says "YES" to the things that make her feel GOOD about herself, and "NO" to the things that make her feel BAD about herself - regardless if it makes others happy or not!)
2)     Explore what the client feels her boundaries look like. Usually it will be a combination of overly Rigid and overly Weak boundaries.
3)     Ask the client to draw out what her boundaries look like right now.
4)     Discuss the drawing and have her identify what each color/symbol means to her.
5)     Have the client do a second drawing. This one will be what the client would like her boundaries to look like.
6)     Discuss what it will take to get to this place and specific actions that the client can take to obtain the confidence to establish these boundaries in her life.


Additional Procedure

1)   When the client is ready, ask the client how the boundary-setting is going. Usually, there will be struggles. At this point, have the client choose a color and draw out a circle, first, representing herself, and then other circles that represent others in her life. Have her show in the drawing how much she feels each one/thing is in her space.
2)   Ask the client to make another drawing showing what it would look like if these things were no longer in her space and she was able to have healthy boundaries with each of the areas indicated in Step 1.

3)   Make sure to emphasize the possibility that through the use of healthy boundaries the client can have her life look as complicated or simple as she wants. Discuss what this would take.

Reflection/Processing Questions:

1)      Tell me about your drawing. What do you notice when you look at it?
2)     What is holding you back from creating the boundaries you want in your life?
3)     What will it take to be able to set healthy boundaries?
4)     How do you feel about practicing saying “no” with me? Let’s practice.
5)     How can you let go of wanting to please others or avoid their anger?
6)     What areas of your life are within your control where you can use boundaries?
7)     How was this process for you?


1)      People often struggle with the concept. It will be important to take it slowly and allow the person to take it at her own pace. She may need to think about it before taking action on it. She will more than likely want to come back to talk to you about how it went (i.e., saying “no” to abusive or intrusive relationship, etc.) and could get discouraged with initial results. Keep using encouragements and focus on strengths.

2)     Getting down the details of how this works is important. Letting the client know that she has the right to say when/if someone touches her may be the focus. It may also be important to distinguish “People Pleasing” and how to work on providing self with love rather than avoiding losing it from others. Each person will have their own “spin” on how boundaries will look for him/her. It will be important to allow the client to talk freely about how this process is going.
3)     It may be necessary to continue to reinforce this concept multiple times. Often, this can be such a foreign concept to people that they only grasp bits and pieces of the full importance of how boundaries work. Be prepared to go through the drawings multiple times. You may give the drawings to the client to take home so that she can look at them and remind herself of what healthy boundaries look like.
4)     People often think there is a “wrong” way and a “right” way to create boundaries. It will also be important to emphasize to the client that each person is different and however she feels her boundaries need to be is OK. She gets to determine when she wants to say “no” and when she is ready to say “yes”. Being in touch with how she feels in any moment will also be important and many clients have dissociated themselves from their feelings because of the pain associated with them. You may have to do some work to help them get back in touch with how they “feel” (i.e., feelings versus emotions) so that they can begin to see feelings as healthy and also important indicators to listen to.
Web-sites to Check Out:
“Setting Boundaries: Personal and Professional” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ7wKKx4_xg&feature=related
“Becoming Separate” by Cloud and Townsend  - http://www.cloudtownsend.com/changes-that-heal/creating-healthy-boundaries/  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Standing Body Image Drawing

Standing Body Image Drawing

Art Therapy Directive

Sometimes, people have what is called “Body Dysmorphic Disorder” where they see their bodies in some abnormal way, which causes significant disruption in their lives. This can be through an eating disorder, self-mutilation, plastic surgery, constant dieting or exercising to the point of being unhealthy, etc.

In this directive, the client has a chance to come face-to-face with her inaccurate views of her body, and instead change them out for newer, more healthy views.

White Butcher Paper          Permanent Markers (Black and Red)          Tape

     Step One
1)  Place a piece of the butcher paper on the wall, long enough to encompass the client's full body. Use tape to make it stay on the wall, placing the paper no higher than the client's head.
2)  Have the client take the black marker and draw the outline of the body that she thinks she has.
3)  Have the client stand back and reflect on what she drew as an outline. Ask, "What do you see?"
4)  Next, have the client stand back facing the wall and over the outline she already created, use another color marker (red) and outline her actual body (as close to the actual body size and proportion as possible - you may have to ask for permission from the client because you will be touching her at times with the marker).
5)  Have the client stand back and reflect on the differences from what she drew, and what her actual body-size is.

Step Two

1)  Have the client take the marker and color in her actual body.

2)  Ask the client a few reflective questions, such as "What do you think?"

3)  Next, have the client take a darker marker (black) and write on her body what she does not like about her body and/or how she sees it today.

4)  Have the client share about what she wrote and how she feels about her body.

5)  Ask the client, "After doing this exercise, what do you see about yourself and how you look?"

6)  Reflect back to the client alternative statements of what you, the therapist sees. Have these statements be positive while acknowledging how the client sees herself.

7)  When the client is ready, have the client write statements in another, brighter color, that are positive about her body, and about herself.

Note:  You may have to work with the client awhile to "take it on", "as if" it were true. Sometimes, just "pretending" can impact the person a great deal, and despite herself she may begin to shift in to another way of seeing it.

Processing Questions:

1)  "Tell me what you see."  - "How do you feel about that?"

(Note: These next questions are designed for processing when the client has been through the exercise and is now ready to consider alternatives in her thinking.)

2)  "What is a way that you could challenge that belief/thought?"
3)  "Are you willing to see it differently?"
4)  "Where in your life is the place you feel most out of control?"
5)  "What can you control and what can't you control?"  
6)  "How can you not 'take it (another person's issues) on'?"


This directive can have a dramatic affect on a client. Client's often will struggle with this process, but once they do it a time or two there is a great deal of positive change that occurs.

This directive increases the sense of control a client has over her body. You may need to work on other control issues that arise in her life, especially with close relationships.

This directive challenges the clients thinking in a subtle, yet powerful way. The client will begin to shift her thinking and open up to the possibility of hope.


This is a very intense process and should not be done until both the client and the therapist feel ready.

Allow this process to be client-directed. If the client feels overwhelmed or upset at any time, stop the directive until the client feels ready to proceed.

Make sure to do this directive in a safe environment, where the client feels safe and there is not chance for interruption or of confidentiality being broken. The client will be going through a great deal of vulnerability and will need to trust that the therapist is capable of handling this professionally.

Web-Sites to Reference:

MailOnline, Blind to her beauty: Girl who tried to kill herself eight times because she felt she was too ugly http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1227516/Attractive-student-suffering-body-dysmorphia-attempts-suicide-times-seeing-disgusting-figure-mirror.html

Voice In Recovery:  Prevention, Advocacy, Intervention, Recovery (PAIR) http://voiceinrecovery.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/ed-and-bdd/

Timberline Knolls:  Residential Treatment Center  http://www.timberlineknolls.com/eating-disorder/body-dysmorphia

Short Video of the Process:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Altered Books

Altered Books

An Art Therapy Directive


            An Old Book       Gesso       Scissors     Glue Sticks     Acrylic Paints
            Magazines      Paint Brushes        Different decorative items   


What would it look like to write your own story? In this directive the author gets to transform an old book in to a creative expression of herself. It can be a way to “re-write” the author’s story, or a way to feel that somewhere her story is special enough to be “in a book”. Either way, the impact is clearly a positive one that has the old become a creation of beauty.


Pick an old book that has several pages. Get the gesso out and paint as many pages as you would like. You can also paint the outside of the book and give it a whole new title/look. Once the gesso has dried begin painting, gluing, writing, or in any way you want to tell your story. You can also use the existing pictures and words that are in the book, incorporating them in to your designs. However you design the book is up to you. It is suggested that you choose a theme for your book. You can also look at it as a diary of sorts, where you make a new page for each new day of your life. The door is open and you are free to express in your own personal way.

Note: It is encouraged to work with your clients to have fun with this process. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do this. Creativity is meant to flow, so judging the end result or the process will work best if it is suspended for this directive. HAVE FUN!!!

Reflection/Processing Questions:

1)  How was it to create your Altered Book?

2)  What was one of the most impactful entries that you created? What had it be so impactful for you?

3)  What was it like to just let yourself create something without judging it? Did you struggle with it or did it come easily? How could you let go and enjoy it even more next time?

Expressive Outcome Possibilities:

1)  Person(s) will be able to be creative and expressive.

2)  Person(s) will be able to explore and experience different art media.

3)  Person(s) will be able to increase their sense of self-worth and value.

4)  Person(s) will be able to allow creativity to flow, increasing ability to problem-solve.

Web-sites to Check Out:

Studio: Altered Books  - http://mystudio3d.tripod.com/altbooks.htm

Creativity Portal: How to Make an Altered Book  -


"Letting It Flow"
There are even more web-sites out on the internet that talk about how to make an Altered Book. These books can be highly personalized. People can sketch in them, put ribbons in the, have stamps, pictures that are personal, do collages, paint, and so much more. It really is up to you and can be a great deal of fun when the person making the Altered Book allows themselves to "let it flow". This may take some work with you (the Art Therapist) and the client. Be prepared to work on some deep issues with the client, as they are ready. This is an on-going project/process that you and client may come back to repeatedly. Again, there is no "right" or "wrong" way to do this. Enjoy the process, and encourage each person to respect their own process (i.e., not pushing self or judging self).

This type of directive is an on-going project. It can often take a whole session to do just one page. Sometimes, the client may feel ready to work on the Altered Book. Other times, she/he needs to just "let it sit". Whatever the client feels is best for her in this process, it is encouraged to let the client be self-directed with this process.

You might discuss with the client about the imagery showing up in the book. What does that image symbolize to you? How does that apply to your life? Are there some similarities to other aspects in your life? What themes are coming out for you? Are these important themes to you, or are you needing to "let them go"?

Safe Place
It is often important to emphasize to the client that your office is a "safe place" where the client can put down on paper (in clay, in paint, etc) how he/she is actually feeling. No one will see it. And, you (as the Art Therapist) will not judge it. It will be there, kept safe, and no one else will see it. Sometimes, the client may want to take the book home with her to work on it or have it close. Although this is temping to do, it is encouraged that the client keep the book at your office to work on it when you are together at first. After you can gauge how the client is doing with the Altered Book process, then the client may determine it is time for her to take it home with her. Creating a "safe place" for her to keep her work is going to be very important for her sense of security while dealing with possibly upsetting topics.