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Is Art Therapy for You?

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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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Letting Go: A Message for Life Transitions

Thinking back to my son’s graduation from kindergarten, I am reminded of an image of my little boy wearing a white paper graduation cap – secured to his head with masking tape!

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Jordan, at his graduation ceremony!

His father and I watched in amazement as our first born entered elementary school. It’s an image I will never forget! 

Now living in Brooklyn, New York and working as a consultant, I admire my son’s fearlessness as he has approached each new stage of his life.

As graduation day approaches for many parents, I understand the difficulty that many face while confronting the idea of letting go. Releasing not only our children, but also our fears requires a great amount of strength.

We must be willing to conjure up this strength in order fully embrace joy, and to experience our children’s achievements. For some, it can feel as though there wasn’t enough time to prepare for this next chapter.

Many seniors feel just as apprehensive and anxious about this new phase of their life. Most people don’t feel ready to leave middle school, high school, college, or even an old job or a relationship.

No matter where we are transitioning from, moving forward always brings feelings of uncertainty and discomfort to the surface. These feelings are necessary, but, if they are not addressed properly, we risk making the changes in our lives unbearable.

There isn’t a magic wand to make transitions easier, but there are simple steps we can take to make the process less stressful. All you have to do is close your eyes, breath and use your imagination!

The first step is to identify any fears, regrets or sadness that you may be feeling. Make a list of the possible reasons behind these negative feelings to help you uncover all the things that are bottled up or kept hidden. The next step is to write down all the positive things that you hope to accomplish and want to feel.

For example, you may write the words “regret” or “insecure” on your negative list, and the words ”self-confidence” or “joy” on your positive list.

Next, close your eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose. As you exhale through your mouth, imagine your list of negativity being released into the air and then dissolving into smoke.

Repeat this step several times until you have vaporized all the negativity into thin air! Now, inhale through your nose again, and take in only the positive feelings and thoughts on your list. Repeat until you are full of positive energy.

Moving forward, forgive yourself and allow yourself to let go of regrets or fears each time they surface. Letting go of past regrets opens a space for joy to enter. Focusing on positivity also gives you more energy to move through life.

It takes courage to walk through the next door that opens for you, especially when you can’t see beyond the doorway. Surround yourself with people who can light your path and walk beside you to ease your journey, and provide the necessary support and strength that you’ll need. As you become more focused and confident, you will become a guide to others.

Don’t let the changes in your life paralyze you with fear, learn to embrace life as it comes, and most importantly, don’t forget to breathe and enjoy your own graduation from the past into the present!

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