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Is Art Therapy for You?


Ever wonder what art therapy is about?

Art therapists are trained as psychotherapists with at least a master’s degrees in expressive therapy. Utilizing art as a form of therapy has proven to be one of the most effective ways to overcome psychological blocks – damaging mental blocks that often prevent individuals from reaching their highest potential.

Art therapists analyze the drawings of their clients in several different ways.

Drawings are used to uncover the underlying issues causing difficulty in someone’s life. I use a series of ten to fifteen drawings when I first meet a client. These drawings are used as a baseline to assess where the person exists emotionally. They also reveal unconscious material that lay at the root of a client’s struggles. These initial drawings act as a roadmap to treatment.

Art therapists are trained to understand which materials will be the most productive tools of expression. Often, when an individual begins therapy, they are ready to defend their emotions. They have a well-rehearsed story, but the drawings cut through the defenses and quickly reveal the deeper content. Art therapists provide materials such as paint, clay or pastels to foster the expression of what was previously being kept hidden.

I continue to be surprised by what comes up for my clients – content that has up until this time been suppressed. Often what’s revealed in the drawings isn’t what my clients think they need to address, but turns out to be the root cause of their struggles.

There is no artistic skill required!  As art therapists, we are trained to walk you through the process and ascertain which materials would work best for your course of expression.

It’s the pure expression of feeling, not artistic talent that we are looking for to begin the healing process. Art therapists treat the same emotional disorders and mental health issues that verbal therapists address. In fact, art therapists often work with verbal therapists if a client is blocked and unable to express their feelings verbally.

At the termination of therapy, we review the drawings my client created at the beginning of our sessions. There is such a difference in the drawings from the start of therapy to termination, and they show tremendous emotional growth, insight and healing.

It’s always rewarding to be able to see progress and to keep a visual record of a person’s improved emotional well-being.

If you are interested in more information about art therapy, you can visit my website: thedrawinganalyst.com or the American Art Therapy Association’s website: arttherapy.org.

Thank you for your time and happy healing!

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

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How Shattered Pots Help With Grief & Loss

The following recipe was originally used at Olivia’s House – a grief and loss center for children in York, PA. I have expanded on the idea and use it to assist my younger clients as they process painful emotions related to grief and loss.

What You Need:

  • 1 medium size clay pot
  • large towel
  • small hammer
  • sharpie pen
  • large sheet of paper
  • glue gun/white glue
  • acrylic paint
  • a variety of objects: Pictures, words, silk flowers etc. to decorate exterior



Step 1: Break the pot.

Wrap the clay pot in towel to avoid flying shards of clay. Hold firmly in place on its side to break the pot with a hammer. You may have to tap it a few times. Ideally you want 8-10 broken pieces. Light pressure will suffice.

Gather broken pieces and place them (in any order) on a large sheet of paper.

Step 2: Label the broken fragments of the pot.

Ask the child to list 8-10 of the emotions they are currently feeling the most. Try to match the size of each shard in relation to the intensity of each feeling. For example, if the child says that his or her strongest emotion is fear, then label the largest fragment “fear.” Continue until all fragments are labeled with each of the feelings expressed by the child. Take your time with this step, because it is important. Talk about the difficulty of the loss and the various emotions that the child is currently feeling.

Ensure the labeled feelings are on the inner curved sections of the pot, because when you glue the pot back together, you want to see the words inside. (See attached picture.)

Step 3: Glue pieces back together

Hot glue the pot back together. This is not any easy process and is a metaphor for the rebuilding process after loss. This is a messy and sometimes complicated step, and the difficulty of reassembling can be discussed in relation to the child’s emotional rebuilding process. Also at this point, it is a good time to talk about the symbol of the glue. You may want to ask, “Who has helped glue your life back together?”

Allow glue to cool and dry.

Step 4: Decorate the exterior of the pot

Paint the exterior of the pot with acrylic paint and any variety of plastic flowers, healing words, inspirational phrases or pictures. The scrapbook isle of your local craft store is a good place to start for items. Use a glue gun or school glue for this step.

Step 5: Discussion

Talk about how life has changed since the loss, talk about how what steps the child has taken to put his or her life back together. Discuss the people who have helped and how and if they found hope, support and love. This process is completed over a series of days or weeks.

Each step is a contemplative process.

As therapists, we sometimes feel uncomfortable remaining in the shattered stages phase with our clients, and seek to move forward to the “making it better” or healing stage. This is a disservice to our clients, because we should allow each person to take their time and fully process their emotions.

Be gentle with yourself, with others, allow yourself and others to grieve fully and be patient as they open their heart to the next step.

Thank you Leslie Delp, Executive Director of Olivia’s House for everything you do to support grieving children and their families!

Thank you for being here.

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

Please visit and like my Facebook page!

Visit my Etsy Shop for my hand-crafted healing items.

Email me!

Learn more on my Website!

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When Summer Lacks Instagram-Style “Disney Moments”

Looking through Facebook and Instagram, or listening to other parents and Grandparents discuss their summer plans, and I become convinced that everyone, except for me, is having a Disney Summer.

“Disney Summers” are filled with sun drenched smiles, laughter and meaningful moments that can only be achieved on an expensive vacation or in a lavish beach house.

Meanwhile, parents who can’t afford these high-end vacations often tend to think that they’re missing out and depriving their children of a thrilling, brag-worthy summer adventure.

The expectations for a Norman Rockwell summer are on par with our expectations for the perfect Christmas! The pressure to create summer memories and stimulating educational experiences for our children, ultimately leads to our own exhaustion and frustration.

Disney SummersParenting has become more challenging and complex, because we’ve wrongly equated how much we love our children with how much we are willing to spend on them. The rising expectations of a meaningful summer can be overwhelming for those of us on a tight budget or for parents who are working a full-time job.

Those picture perfect moments that you see all over your newsfeed might make you feel guilty for not providing your own child with these far-off adventures, but we have to understand that these trips do very little for their self-esteem and development.  The truth is, parents often make the mistake of attempting to purchase an idealized moment for their children, but good times don’t have to come at a high price!

Good parenting is when your child is bored on the sofa and you allow him or her to complain, and then encourage your child to daydream and create an experience for themselves. Creativity thrives when it is nurtured. This happens when a child is given unstructured time and space. You may say, ‘Well my child is creative at summer camp” but camps are carefully managed and structured environments. The same can be said for vacations, where there is constant stimulation and activities planned throughout the day.  Natural creativity often happens at home -on the sofa, in the kitchen in the backyard; these are the familiar, comfortable places that are the fertile ground for mental growth and creativity.

Summer vacations and sleep away camps have their place, and everyone needs to get away from the mundane routine of life, sometimes. However, parents need to lower the bar just a little to allow time for boredom and downtime.  Most importantly, we shouldn’t feel guilty every time our child complains of boredom.

Try providing blank sheets of paper, a box of crayons, markers, or colored pencils for a start. Ask your kids to write their own adventure story and to make themselves the main character. Set up a tent in their bedroom or the living room and give them some books and a flashlight! For older children, it can be more challenging, but you can ask them to re-create scenes from their favorite movies and have another sibling film the production and then play it for a night of family entertainment.

Another way to take the pressure off of parents is to let your children play outdoors and limit screen time to allow for other interest. Overstimulation inhibits creativity and self-awareness and this is why parents are finding it increasingly difficult to get their children off of these devices. These gadgets are addicting, and as a smart phone user myself, I know  how this is challenging for adults, too, especially since they keep us plugged-in and working even when we’re not at our desks.

If we want to break these bad habits, we have to learn to unplug and to encourage our children to do the same.

Let them be the masters of their own creativity and encourage them to have confidence in their own abilities, and then sit back and watch the show! After all, it is summertime – a time for adults and children to relax and slow down!

Email: Send Email to Karen

Website: http://thedrawinganalyst.com/

Facebook: The Drawing Analyst on Facebook

Visit Karen’s Etsy Shop for unique, handmade gift items and Healing Art products.

Karen Stabley ATR BC


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