This past week I worked on my postcards for the Hope-filled Art Postcard Exchange, organized by Gretchen Miller and Nancy Lautenbach and part of 6 Degrees of Creativity. Participants create three art postcards about “hope” to mail out and will receive three in return.
You can learn more here: https://6degreesofcreativity.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/creative-deed-project-art-filled-hope-postcard-art-exchange/ (And be sure to follow Art Therapy Alliance and 6 Degrees of Creativity on social media to find out about the next swap or collaborative art event.)
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I love the collaborative and interactive projects from 6 Degrees of Creativity as a way to connect with the larger community of creativity and art therapy. In particular, I have really appreciated the idea of creating art to be given away, art that can make someone smile or lift their day. The hope-filled postcards is a wonderful activity in that same spirit, encouraging art that sends hope out into the world. As I worked on my postcards, I thought about other people in my life that that I would want to send this hope to, so I plan to make more of these hope-filled postcards and send them to people I know that could use some encouragement, love, and hope.
Hope is a powerful and essential thing for every life, and it is something that deserves our focus in our personal art-making and in the healing power of art therapy.
Art can express a lot of things and serve a lot of different purposes. The skillful art therapist helps to direct the client toward a use of art that will be healing and helpful for them. One of these possible purposes of art is to focus one’s attention on the positive in life. At times, there can be a lot of focus on art therapy as simply using art to express one’s feelings. While this is important and can be cathartic, the research around positive psychology suggests that there is a lot of benefit to intentionally focusing on things like positive experiences, hope, and gratitude – not only negative emotions. For some people, creating art about their (negative) feelings and experiences can lead them to feel worse. Making art about positive memories, hopes, dreams, and gratitude, leads us to focus on these things and can lift our mood.
So, wondering how you can use hope-filled art to help your clients? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Create hope-filled postcards, art cards, or random acts of art in individual sessions, in groups, or as homework – Encourage clients to swap cards, send them to others, or leave them for a stranger to find. Not only does focusing on hope and positivity have helpful effects, but so does the kindness of giving away art to others. (Tip: I used these Avery postcards to paint on; they’re an easy way to have several postcards for a group activity.)
2. Create a collage/drawing/artwork about what gives you hope – This is a directive that I use often in the hospital with the mental wellness and sober living groups. I find that clients really enjoy working on this activity, and hope can be an important part of recovery.
3. Illustrate quotes about hope – Sometimes clients have a hard time connecting with hope from within, so quotes can give them the words they need or something to focus on. (Here’s a list of quotes to get started from)
Here are the quotes that I used on my postcards:
“Hope is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without words –
And never stops – at all.”
“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” (A Chinese proverb)
Do you have any other ideas for hope-filled artwork in art therapy? Please share them in the comments!
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Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR is an art therapist in Austin, Texas who works with children, teens, and families. For more information about individual therapy, teen and child counseling, family therapy, teen group therapy, and art therapy services, please visit: www.therapywithcarolyn.com.
This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. All directives, interventions, and ideas should be used by qualified individuals within the appropriate bounds of their education, training, and scope of practice. Information presented in this blog does not replace professional training in child and family therapy, art therapy, or play therapy.
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