An important part of growth is being able to define what we need and want to have in our lives and what we need to let go of or keep out. Of course, the next part of the process – actually making these changes – is where the real hard work is done. But we cannot move toward a different life until we start to define how things need to be different.
This is a creative exercise that I have found helpful for myself and with clients to explore what needs to change, what needs to stay the same, and what we need to guard against.
Directive – Think about what you need to keep or hold on to in your life and what you need to let go of or keep out of your life. Find a way to represent this on the page with words and images.
I often offer a few suggested formats that clients have enjoyed. When I do this directive in group, I show a template for each and then let the group members choose what direction to go. And I always offer the choice that they may find a different format that feels right for them instead.
Hands – Trace your right and your left hand on the page. On one hand, put the things that you need to hold on to. On the other, put the things that you need to let go of. Develop your art piece further however you wish.
Heart – Draw a large heart on the page. On the inside, put the things that you want to keep in your heart. On the outside, put the things that you need to keep out of your heart.
Mandala/Circle – Draw a large circle on the page. On the inside, put the things you need to keep or bring in to your life. On the outside, put the things that you need to keep out of your life.
Helpful discussion about this directive can include questions like:
How strong is your boundary between what you want and don’t want in your life and does that boundary need to change? Which things have you already been able to work on and which ones would be new for you? Which things do you expect will be the hardest to let go of or keep out? How will your life or emotional well-being change if you are able to keep and/or let go of these things? What experiences and/or people have brought some of these things to your life? What are the next steps that you need to take to move toward having what you have represented?
Want more great art and writing prompts for exploring emotions, practicing mindfulness, developing healthy coping, increasing movement, and building healthy relationships? Be sure to check out my guided journal, The Balanced Mind.
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Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR-BC is an art therapist in Austin, Texas who works with children, teens, and families. For more information about individual therapy, child and teen 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. Art therapy requires a trained art therapist.
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Thank you So much for A practice .i feel better.it’S better when I create with my feelings I feel more free.i feel grateful for A Beautiful gifts .thank you for sharing with us A very powerful tools.
I have been following your emails for awhile. I am not a licensed therapist and am retired but I love all of your ideas. I spent almost 50 years working with people who experience developmental disabilities and have adult son who has autism. Language is hard but visual is strength. I have a lot of issues my self and need to implement for myself. Thanks for providing some many ideas. Blanche
Very inspired! Thanks!
I am going to practise these exercises today.
This is a REALLY good exercise!! I can’t wait to use it.
I am a student in the counseling program at Sam Houston State. I love this exercise and used it as my final demonstration of a group therapy activity. Thank you for sharing! I am now going through all of your posts and loving them all!
Carolyn Mehlomakulu says
Hi Sarah, glad it was helpful!
Very interesting article.Thankyou
samanth coleman says
thank you for this post, it was very helpful and life changing!
Just found this awesome idea. Thank you so much for sharing this. Will try this in group.