Happy Monday! While you’re reading this, I’m in Disneyworld! Follow me on Instagram if you want to keep up with my much-needed vacation! In the meantime, please enjoy this guest post written by a friend of mine, Kathy, and show her some comment love!
Expressive art is a mindbody technique that helps us experience life and the self on different and deeper dimensions. Expressive art work is a wonderful component in therapeutic healing of emotional pain and suffering. Writing, meditating and drawing are ideal mindbody healing methods as they pull information from many parts of ourselves – thoughts, imagery and feelings.
I’ve always been a sort of “crafty” person. When I had more time, I loved to work on sewing projects, such as small quilts and colorful wall hangings. I love color and loved to put together outfits based on color.
But there was always something about using art materials that scared me! I don’t have any formal art training, so I kinda thought that using paints and pastels was better left to the trained artists! My sister is a wonderful trained fine artist and an art teacher, and I know what goes into her work!
So I let my self be intimidated by my limiting beliefs and fears! For many years, I had a fascination with art supplies, you know, clay and oil pastels and collaging. I put this interest aside as I studied all sorts of other healing methods: counseling psychology, guided imagery, Reiki, shiatsu, acupressure….then one day I cam across an expressive art training. I read the material and felt I could use it in my counseling practice.
The first weekend of the workshop, I approached with trepidation. We were asked to bring a sketch book to class. So I went out and bought my first sketch book!
The day of the class. the teacher carried in all sorts of art materials: oil pastels, chalk pastels, crayons, markers, buttons, ribbons, pictures from magazines, natural materials, fabric swatches. I was in heaven! And I was definitely intimidated by the art materials! My teacher introduced us to oil pastels for the first exercise.
Accompanied by beautiful music, we were asked to draw expressively, letting our bodies move and express with colors and texture how the music made us feel. So, using broad strokes and the smooth feel of oil pastels, I let my emotions move wordlessly through me onto the paper.
It was a soothing, stress-reducing experience for me. Using the art materials, the textures and the color, and the attitude of feeling and experiencing freely, and not analyzing, was so freeing.
The teacher went on to teach us to use color and art materials to express our feelings of emotional and physical pain with a color, a shape, a movement. The right-brain experiential play-work turned out to be a wonderful way to integrate left-brain interpretative understanding of emotional material on a deeper intuitive level.
Expressive art work has no judgment around it; no one was to interpret anyone else’s expressive work. So, another level of expressive art work is all around understanding and believing in yourself.
So, many years later, expressive art is a permanent part of my life, on both a personal and a professional level. Personally, I have filled several sketch books with wordless emotional material and interpretative writing and I always have a larger project in one stage or another on my work table in my office. In my counseling work with moms, I use the expressive art in sessions whenever I can fit it in, although many people suffer from that limiting fear of using art.
Here is a simple expressive art exercise you can use over and over again for your emotional self-care and healing from within:
Create a little safe healing space in your home, out out a piece of paper and some crayons or markers, whatever you have around the house. If you have time, maybe light a candle and set yourself up with some nice soothing, healing music ( I love Ashkara’s Weave’s Reiki music for healing).
Think about an issue, a thought or emotion, that is troubling you. Relax and sit quietly and meditate on this issue for a few moments. But get a body based feeling about this issue, on an emotional level. Let yourself access the body feeling underneath the thoughts and emotions. Now invite, or ask quietly, for an image of this issue to emerge from the wordless place around this emotional material. And when you feel ready, come to the paper and draw without thinking, without analysis, how this image and emotional materials feels within you. Breathe deeply and stay relaxed.
Now, let yourself write a bit about the emotional material. You can write all around the imagery and colors you just produced. Ask yourself what new insight and new self-understanding, new shifts you have experienced throughout this playful exercise. Let yourself sit in these emotional shifts. Many thanks to Barbara Ganim for this expressive exercise.
I hope you enjoyed exploring expressive art as a healing technique. Please feel free to come over to my website for a friendly visit.
Kathy Morelli, LPC, has a professional marriage and family counseling practice with a focus on pregnancy, birth, postpartum and trauma in Wayne, NJ. Kathy also offers phone consultations and web-based courses. She has a long-term interest in mindbody therapies and is trained in shiatsu, acupressure and Reiki. She writes and speaks on BirthTouch® for emotional and physical healing during pregnancy and Strengthen Our Mothers® for emotional health. She has appeared at various universities and conferences across the country and writes for Lamaze’s Science & Sensibility and Giving Birth With Confidence. Kathy is a board member of Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth (PATTCh) and is one of Postpartum Support International’s (PSI) Virtual Volunteers. Visit her at birthtouch.com and kathymorelli.com.