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A guide to art therapy for newbies

A guide to art therapy for newbies

A guide to art therapy for newbies

An in-depth guide to art therapy for newbies

If you’re here, you have probably heard about art therapy and you want to try it out. However, you do not know where to start. If that is the case, then you have come to the right place. This is a detailed guide to art therapy. Let’s begin with a small discussion about what is art therapy.

What is art therapy?

In the most basic form, art therapy can be defined as a way in which one can use his or her creativity to express their emotions and work through their feelings. People suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD or any other form of mental disorder most often find it very hard to put their emotions into words. Art therapy can help such people express their inner feelings without actually talking about them. This medium can be used to not only express, but navigate through those feelings. Since art compresses many forms of creative mediums like painting, sculpting, photographing etc. it can provide the user many options to choose from.

How can art therapy help a person suffering from mental issues?

Art therapy can be of help to people of any age and it usually involves help from a therapist or a mental health professional. Your art therapist will give you an assignment in the form of an art therapy exercise. Once you do it, you discuss the possible meanings of the outcome with your therapist.

Abstract art or drawing your feelings has been observed to help with working out the inner feelings which are difficult or painful to talk about. A therapist with a keen eye can figure out these hidden feelings and emotions and understand the patient’s mental situation better.

Once you finish your assignment for art therapy, your therapist might discuss with you and ask you a few follow-up questions. He or she might be interested to know why you chose the specific colors and how did you feel when you were working on your art. They might ask what you decided to name the piece or how would you describe the piece in terms of feelings. Furthermore, your therapist would work with you on understanding your use of colors or the lack thereof, how have you used your space on the canvas to draw, whether you used warm colors or cool colors etc.

The best part of art therapy is that you don’t need to specifically be an artist to benefit from the therapy. Even though you have never learned to sketch, to make a collage or engaged in any sort of artistic activity, you can still use art therapy as an everyday activity to manage anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD and so much more.

Now let’s look at the different forms of art therapy

All types of arts have the potential to heal and help people work through their stress-related problems and feelings. The following are a few major types of art therapy which are used by art therapists as a part of the therapy process:

Doodling, drawing as well as sketching:

Doodling is the easiest and the most used form of art therapy by art therapists possibly because all that is needed to engage in this form of therapy are pencil and papers. The patient or the person seeking help does not need to have specific artistic skills. The therapist is not going to judge you on the basis of your artistic inclination or your talent. They are just going to focus on the shape, the colors, and what the image makes you feel.


Normally people will always associate painting with millions of brushes, thousands of colours and huge canvases. However, for art therapy neither of the above-mentioned things are needed. All that is needed is a paper and a few colors. You don’t need a paintbrush to understand what the person is feeling. If you do not wish to invest, you can even use the finger-painting technique to understand what you are feeling or going through. People can draw abstract figures or images which are etched in the memory to bring out all the deep-seated emotions.


Photography is a medium that gives people a lens to hide behind. Their feelings can be judged by the types of photographs they take. Photographing gives people a power to takes pictures of what they are feeling. The lens forms a barrier between the person and the world. The angle of the photographs, the chosen subjects and lighting can reveal a lot about what the person is feeling or going through mentally.

Digital art:

This is possibly the easiest form of art therapy. Currently there are many apps available on smartphones which allowed people to color or draw. These mediums can be used to draw what you are feeling. You do not need to have an artistic background to know how to draw on a digital canvas. People can choose to either create the collages, edit photos or put themselves in the scenes as per what their emotions are and what they are feeling. They can also simply install a painting application and actually start to paint their feelings.


You do not have to specifically make a human statue or a perfectly poised animal when you sculpt. Try to use the clay as a modem for your emotions. Sculpt what you feel like at that moment. This will give your therapist a lot of insight into the emotions you do not wish to talk about or those which are impossible to speak out loud. For sculpting you can either use air dry clay or the clay which can be used for baking. If you don’t like getting your hands dirty, you can even work with paper mache that is newspaper and glue. You can either choose to paint it or leave it just like it is. What you make and the colors you use will tell your therapist what you are going through.


This is one form of art therapy which allows you to work with mixed-media. For this kind of art, you can use anything starting from newspaper clippings to fabrics. Use what invigorates you or catches your fancy. This is an excellent way to express different types of feelings in just one form of art.


Sewing is a very relaxing and cathartic process. If you use sewing as an art therapy medium, the therapist will focus on the type of fabric you use, the colors you work with and the kind of stitching patterns you use in your work. You may also make something which can express your emotions or what you were feeling when you were doing the task of sewing. You can create a quilt, which might express the warmth you are feeling or the absence of in a relationship or you can create a single doll which might express that you’re feeling lonely.


Writing is possibly the easiest form of art therapy. You do not need to be a story writer or a novelist to begin writing. You can just start writing what you feel, maintain a diary in which you make it a point to write every day. You can also write short stories or essays. Your stories or essays do not need to have a climax. Your stories are allowed to have an abrupt ending.

Remember, these pieces you write are only for your eyes or your therapist’s if you wish to share them. You can make it a habit to write in your journal every day, Note your feelings, your gratitude’s and your positive affirmations towards yourself. These written pieces will allow your therapist to understand your mental state and help him or her guide you better.

Art therapy as a tool for pain management

Using art therapy at home

A lot of people do not like going to the therapist’s as they are afraid of its implications in terms of what society will think about them. Yes! society needs to change a lot and accept that mental issues are a part of everyone’s day-to-day life. So, for those who do not wish to consult a therapist and still want to work their way through their stress, art therapy is the best medium. You do not need to have a ton of brushes, paints, clay etc. or any kind of supplies at your home.

If you have a single piece of paper and a pen or a notebook, it’s enough to start a written journal or a pictorial journal. If you have a smartphone, you can use it to take pictures and edit them. If you have a pencil and paper you can start drawing. You can keep these pieces for a while and later look back at them and try to figure out what you were feeling when you are drawing those or writing. This can help you sort out your feelings and stress on your own.

How has art therapy helped me personally?

The reason I am such a strict believer of art therapy is because I use it almost every day to work through my stress and the conundrums of everyday life. I am a digital painter. When I want to draw my emotions, I do abstract paintings. When I use reference images to paint, the process of painting helps me meditate and forget about my stress or the things which are weighing down on my head. I have been using art therapy for the last three years and it has definitely helped me more than I can possibly express in words.


What are your thoughts about the guide to art therapy for newbies? Have you ever tried art therapy? If yes, what do you do? Do you paint, sculpt, draw or write? How has art therapy helped you overcome your stress? How did you come to know about art therapy? How long has it been since you have started your journey in art therapy?

If you would like to share your story with everyone, please write it down in the comment section below. If you want me to feature your stories in my blog post, feel free to contact me on any of my social media channels. I would be glad to share your story with the world.

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