Using Art for Mental Health

KELLY MOORE

Psychotherapist – Art Therapist

  Art can be a helpful tool for our emotional and mental wellbeing, both as a therapeutic practice and as a type of counseling–Art Therapy. Art Therapy differs from art as a therapeutic tool, in that Art Therapy is when you seek out therapy with a trained Art Therapist, who has knowledge and experience in that field. In therapy sessions you will create art together as a way to explore emotions, feelings, develop insight, reflect within, develop insight, and other means to achieve therapeutic goals. When creating art as a way for self-care, we can say this is art as therapy. We can engage in it on our own, to feel better, release stress, tension, seek out positivity, or explore how we are feeling. This can be a tool we can use whenever, and it is useful for us because we don’t need anyone to guide or help facilitate the process because it is not serving therapeutic goals.

Art can be a means for us to communicate, express, and explore. We can use it to be playful and use our imaginations. When we engage in art-making we slow our bodies down; our internal body systems begin to regulate, and we see great benefits. We can connect our thoughts and feelings that we may not take time to do throughout the day because we are rushing around. Even the practice of doodling allows us to have relaxation benefits. Our breathing slows, our heartbeats lower—thus resulting in lowering the chemicals that promote stress responses. If we practice using art more often in our lives, we can develop it as a self-care practice. As we know, if it becomes a practice, we can also use it as a preventative measure. Thus, for our mental health we are promoting a healthy means of coping.

At this point, you may be thinking things like, What kind of art do I do, or where do I start? Do coloring books count? I never know what to draw when I open a sketchbook. You are not alone! Even professionals get stuck! It may be helpful to look up lists on the internet, Pinterest boards, or activities such as sketchbook challenges or positivity lists. However, think about going outside of your comfort zone and trying new things! A few easy but creative ideas to start with are Zentangles, Nature Mandalas, bubble prints, or an intention stick.


Or collect any materials you enjoy to use and try one of these prompts: 

  1.  Draw how you are feeling
  2.  Create a safe place
  3.  Recreate a time you felt proud, or create a collage of things that make you happy.

Any of these things may be outside or your norm and may get you to think outside of the box, which may be just what you need at this time. Right now, many of us are struggling with the constant changes and isolation, so trying something new may actually turn out to be really helpful for you during this time! If you are comfortable, share with us if you try any of these by tagging us @upstreetpgh on Instagram! Also, if you engage in any of these and they possibly bring up some feelings that feel really big, or overwhelming, please feel free to reach out to us at our website and use our chat feature to connect with someone.. We are here to help!

Kelly Moore is an Art Therapist at JFCS that specializes in trauma. She has a Master’s degree in Art Therapy and is currently working towards her credentialing to eventually be licensed in Art Therapy.