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They were all distorted in the beginning. I painted garish backgrounds. I took photographs of myself and I started painting self-portraits. I become absorbed in the process and painted how I felt, instead of thinking of how I felt. I began to realize I was painting my life. Next, I created a studio space for myself and simply began painting.

Art Therapy Exercises - The Updated and Improved List - The Art of Emotional Healing

In the beginning, I made no attempt to define myself or my process. I painted from pure feeling states. I became absorbed in the pure expression and gesture of painting. I could completely release my energy passionately on the canvas.

Intuitive Painting

The series turned out to be self-portraits. The figure was broken, distorted, diffuse, crumpled, crying, and bleeding. And in the moment I had released this image, I stepped back, looked, and gasped. Yet I felt calm and detached in this moment face to face with myself. I had let go, on an intense emotional and physical level. Painting is physical for me; I embody my pain as I paint it.

For the first time, I was experiencing my pain in a strange, new way. As a painter, I stood in front of my canvas and was in control for the first time.

Mary’s Story: Painting to Heal

I painted my emotions. I painted my body. I could feel that I was the creator of myself. When I returned to my studio, I saw that the painting had captured and contained a moment that was now past. The painting remained, though the emotion had passed. It was an object that contained an image created in genuine expression.

I had moved past it. I realized that I was witnessing my own transformation. As I painted a series of self-portraits, I struggled with form and perspective. Metaphorically I was recreating and reconstructing my inner form and inner perspective. The external creative process mirrored my inner world.

I realized the manifestation of movement and change was powerful.

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It was a process of knowing myself. As I immersed myself in painting, I not only became well, but became the artist I had always wanted to be.

My creativity was a part of myself I had neither acknowledged nor honored. Through this experience, I realized that art could be used as a vehicle for healing. The arts are the primeval language of the senses, even before words and language developed [ 23 ].

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By engaging his experience through art, a person experiences a reverberation of and glancing look at that dual consciousness as well as a means of maintaining it. As Fishbane writes, these ruptures may occur through events like illness: They rip the fabric of our own normal consciousness, bent on busyness and cultural buffers, and dispose us to a sense of unsettling finitude within vastness that exceeds all ordinary presumptions.

Defenses fall and our fundamental fragility is suddenly manifest, at least for the moment. When we encounter a patient in the hospital who is in the midst of a caesura, the arts can provide an additional language.

100 Art Therapy Exercises

They are a bridge to the meaning of the reality with which he is contending. In , the first author created Haverut Friendship , an arts-based spiritual care nonprofit working in medical centers, including Hadassah, in Jerusalem, in memory of her daughter, Ruth, who passed away from cystic fibrosis at age During her short life, Ruth drew heavily on the creative realm as a resource that gave her life and opened before her a world of infinite possibility even while she found herself facing a very limiting, terminal condition.

Unable to get out of bed, receiving oxygen and a continuous flow of morphine, Ruth continued to draw, to write in her journal, to weave, and to listen to music. She was constantly in creative, vibrant contact with the spirit and with the soul. She ultimately chose the arts as her means of saying goodbye to her loved ones, drawing a small painting on canvas to give to each person, without a need for further words. Box 1 shares the story of a poem Ruth composed at age 6, after one of her lungs collapsed, together with the first author. Elsewhere in the literature we find similar descriptions of the healing nature of the arts in spiritual care and the restoration of a sense of wholeness.

With such a wide variety of art forms available, how should the spiritual caregiver know what to suggest to which kinds of patients? The first step is to get a sense of the person through close listening and attunement. One thing to listen for is the language used by the patient—do they more often use words or images that are cognitive, visual, or auditory? That offers a preliminary means of indicating whether the appropriate intervention is a conversation or conceptual discussion cognitive , visual arts, or music.

Of course, the spiritual caregiver himself must feel comfortable with any particular art form before he can offer it to others. Lane suggests an alternative approach, asking the patient what kind of art form they liked in the past, and then trying to enable that for them but without necessarily providing additional guidance, while occasionally starting the process with guided imagery to enable the movement inward [ 15 ].

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Certain forms of art are more widely accessible while others must be selected more carefully. Classic visual arts tend to be approachable for most people. Crafts that can be used, such as jewelry or a cloth journal, or even creating musical instruments, are even more accessible. Music including singing , by contrast, because it makes noise and is less tangible, is more invasive and involves more of a kind of exposure, so it is primarily appropriate for patients who are already comfortable with it.

Although one must be careful before introducing music, it can be a very powerful means of opening up the inner space. One approach to making music, singing, or art more accessible is to offer it to groups of patients. For example, many patients can work together on the same piece of art, as in the example in Box 2. We have been exploring the spiritual benefits for patients of engaging in creative artistic activity.

But we are not only suggesting a new way of looking at these kinds of services. There are also unique aspects of the practice of arts-based spiritual care, as distinct from art therapy, which we will now present. The first element of our approach is the intention, or focus, of the spiritual caregiver. The spiritual caregiver is focused on the divine image within the patient. Sometimes that purpose has a strong connection to hope, prayer, or blessing, as with a patient who composes a personal prayer or poem, or a patient who creates an artistic rendering of a mantra—a helpful phrase or sentence to repeat—that will aid them throughout the day.

Drawing a mandala provides the patient with a focal point for personal ritual practices such as meditation. In other instances, the goal of the artistic endeavor can be the creation of a personal ritual, especially rituals for transitions. This kind of ritual is a repeating set of practices that can help people throughout the time of the transition. One patient might design a ritual that will accompany them preparatory to a worrisome operation and in recovery, a ritual that could include a variety of art forms including song, text, and movement.

Another patient could assemble a personal prayer book before starting chemotherapy, to be opened up on each treatment day, or other objects that they can regularly turn to or touch as sources of strength. Another intersection of spirituality and art comes about through the holidays. Each holiday contains within it a particular set of meaning and resonances. Perhaps an ideal approach is to combine engagement with both the left and the right brain.

The spiritual caregiver might begin by sharing a text, such as a poem or a traditional religious text, in order to open up a discussion of the issues raised by the text that relate to the experience of illness. But by then shifting to a creative means of engaging with those issues, by involving the whole body and even the imagination, then we have now given the patient the freedom to translate the topic of the text to their own lives.

The patient can now feel entirely free to add his own interpretation and to make the text, and its subject, his own. If it was a traditional text, then this engagement is in effect a part of becoming, oneself, part of the tradition, and that itself could be a powerful feeling.

In spontaneous painting do not aim for a pretty end product. Invite a truthful process. Dare to allow something new and unknown emerge. As you cultivate your authentic creative flow it becomes easier to let go of perfectionism and the inner critic.