Q: I have no training in art therapy but would like to weave creative arts approaches into my clinical work. How do I start and what are some of your favorite tools and techniques?
A: As I often tell fellow therapists, many clients benefit when we integrate creative approaches into therapy. Because they don’t require verbalization, these approaches are helpful when treating trauma, and for working with clients on the spectrum, as well as those who speak different languages or are resistant to authentic self-expression.
Art therapy involves master’s-level training in art and psychology, and has its own set of standards and ethics, but integrating its tools doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it require great artistic skill on the part of the therapist or the client. I have an LCSW, and because art therapy can be adjunctive to talking therapy or stand alone, I’ll often ask my clients to choose whether they’d like to talk, make art, or do both in sessions.
I might bring art into therapy when I notice a client using avoidance or intellectualization instead of accessing meaningful emotion. In these moments, I’ll ask them to pause their talking and drop inside their body to see what images and emotions come up.
When we do explore feelings through art, I remind them not to judge the artistic quality and to notice instead the way the experience feels and what evolves from it. Once a picture is made, we look at…