Art therapy is an intervention and treatment modality I use a lot at my private practice. Not only can it be used in conjunction with other therapy models, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it can be used with all ages and abilities.
I use art therapy in many forms at Indigo North Counseling, LLC— from drawing and painting to multimedia projects. I use photography, mandalas, collage, writing, triptychs, shrines, totems, life maps, altered books, found objects art, dreamcatchers, storytelling, and more.
Art taps into a whole different language for people to express themselves and share their stories. You don’t have to be adept at using words, or explaining things verbally, or remembering linear details of your life when you use art as a language. The colors, textures, symbols, and details speak for themselves— through metaphor, through process, through creation, and through release.
If you have a general interest in using art therapy to help you through a part of your life, to explore who you are, or to express any feelings, you may find some of the online activities to be helpful (use the keywords “art therapy activity” in your search engine).
However, if you need or desire more directed activity based on your unique needs, art therapy with a counselor or art therapist is recommended. Art therapy can be used to help with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, acute stress, mood disregulation, self esteem, stress management, self care, adjustment to change, grief/loss, and more.
The next time you look for a boost to your well being, don't forget to consider art as part of your self care regimen.
Bonnie Thomas, LCSW
Indigo North Counseling, LLC
Metaphors provide a rich landscape of words and images to describe things. When you use metaphors to describe yourself, you are looking at who you are through a different lens. It's a creative way to expand on your knowledge and understanding of who you are as a person and how you see yourself. When I work with clients who love to journal or write I often encourage this writing prompt. It's a wonderful practice in creative expression and self awareness.
If you’ve never done this type of writing exercise, no worries— I will walk you through it.
1. Look at the following categories. Write down any that spark your interest or curiosity.
types of tea
the four elements
types of trees
elements on the periodic table
cards in a deck
rooms in a house
bodies of water
types of candy
types of cereal
If you think of other categories, add them to your list.
2. Next, go through the categories and reflect on what you would be if you were in that category.
If you were a type of weather phenomena what would you be?
a sunny day? a rainy day? a tornado? a rainbow? a sundog? an ice storm? a cloud? etc…
If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
Think about whether you’d be an animal that spends most of its time on land, water, or in the air. Is it living in the wild or in captivity? Is the animal considered to have certain characteristics that you can relate to such as being proud, courageous, silly, mischievous, or unpredictable?
How do people tend to respond to this animal?
What are the animal’s survival skills, i.e. does it burrow underground? Is it a skilled fighter? Can it hide itself with camouflage? Is it part of a protective pack?
Allow your imagination to play around with different metaphors. If you get stuck, move on to another category.
See if you can come up with at least 5 metaphors.
When you get to the end of Step 2 your list might look something like this:
Toy: Yo Yo
Weather phenomena: Sandstorm
Card in a deck: The Hermit (from a tarot deck)
Body of Water: A puddle
3. Expand on your answers as much as you can. Dive into each metaphor and see what you discover about yourself as this person, place, or thing you’ve chosen. Some of these might be concise and other might be more detailed. Either way is fine.
I am a tangled string on a yo yo.
I am an inchworm, slowly (but surely) reaching a destination.
I am a sandstorm, blinding everyone in my path.
I am The Hermit, upside down, seated next to the Queen of Swords.
I am a mud puddle — I appear from a deluge of rain and then I disappear.
Last, go through your answers and see what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of. Maybe 3 of your chosen metaphors actually fit the best. Maybe you've come up with 10. It’s all good.
You can leave them as a list of metaphors or you can incorporate them into a different writing piece altogether.
***Note: This is the first writing prompt that will be used in Stories, Words, and Alchemy: A Weekly Group for Writers Exploring Life’s Stories (February 2017) at Indigo North Counseling, LLC in Biddeford, ME. ***
Indigo North Counseling,LLC
An Overview of My Latest Book-- More Creative Coping Skills for Children: Activities, Games, Stories, and Handouts to Help Children Self Regulate
I have authored 4 books with Jessica Kingsley Publishers, and like many authors, I claim my most recent book as my favorite. This is what it looks like:
More Creative Coping Skills for Children: Activities, Games, Stories, and Handouts to Help Children Self-regulate is written for parents as well as professionals who work with children (i.e. counselors, social workers, teachers, day care providers, youth group leaders, recreational therapists, camp staff, etc.).
Each chapter in the book focuses on common challenges that children might struggle with. Chapters include:
Building Interpersonal and Social Skills
Creating Healthy Boundaries
Reducing Oppositional Behavior
Increasing Focus and Reducing Impulsivity
Taming Anxiety, Stuck Thoughts, and Stuck Behaviors
Social Anxiety and Selective Mutism
Sadness and Depression
Increasing Self Confidence and Self Esteem
Loss and Grief
Traumatic Events and Illnesses
Each chapter provides general support around approaching these challenges using games, helpful handouts, rating scales, activities, stories, and more to encourage skill building in each area. Here are some examples:
Apologizing and owning our behaviors is an important social skill. Apology notes are included in the book to encourage and assist children to say they are sorry if/when needed.
Sample incentive charts are provided for parents to use. Incentive charts can be helpful in reducing oppositional and resistant behaviors.
There are a few mandalas for coloring, because coloring is calming for the brain and body. These are in the chapter Taming Anxiety and Stuck Thoughts and Stuck Behaviors.
I included scripts for guided imagery as well as progressive muscle relaxation-- these are key skills in calming and self regulation.
Scales can be helpful for youth to define and communicate how they are experiencing moods, feelings, and behaviors. The scales can also be used to keep track of patterns of progress and regression of symptoms (i.e. in winter months, a child reports more 4s and 5s...whereas in summer the child reports more 1s to 3s-- this is good information!). An anxiety scale is also included in the book.
I used to have a poster on my counseling door like this when I worked in a school. Kids can tear off the section that they want to focus on for the day. This is one of many ways kids can practice building self confidence and self esteem.
From the chapter on Grief and Loss-- losing a pet is challenging for many children, understandably so. I've worked with many children who have wanted to lovingly say goodbye to their pets after they died, but didn't know how. These scripts are provided to aid in the conversation parents and providers can have with children as well as provide some suggestions around what can be said to honor the pet at a funeral or remembrance ceremony.
The chapter on Family Challenges addresses tight budgets and poverty, building relationships, managing separations within the family (i.e. if a parent is in the military or incarcerated), changes in the family (i.e. divorce), and mental illness and substance abuse.
At the end of each chapter there's an accompanying story. Stories can help kids understand a situation through a different lens, as well as provide suggestions or solutions for challenges the kids might be facing.
Kid-friendly games, puppets, coloring sheets, and craft activities are also included throughout the book.
If you'd like to see even more, go to this link at Amazon and use the "look inside" feature.
Thanks so much for taking the time to learn more about my latest book!
Bonnie Thomas, LCSW
Indigo North Counseling, LLC