Expressing emotions can be challenging – that’s one of the reasons that art in therapy can be so helpful. The art process can give clients another way beyond talking to understand and express their emotions. Metaphors and imagery can be powerful ways to convey feelings and gain new insights into them.
Using the metaphor of weather to express emotions is one way to do this. I find this directive really helpful for a couple of reasons. First is that it gives a creative way to express feelings on the page. As discussed in previous posts, art about emotions helps clients to build awareness and acceptance of their emotions, provides a safe release and form of containment for those emotions, and gives them reflective distance to explore and understand these emotions. In addition, art done in therapy gives the client the benefit of having their feelings witnessed and accepted by the therapist.
Another reason that I like this specific directive for exploring emotions is that the metaphor of weather can lead into discussion about emotions changing over time. When someone is experiencing distressing feelings, it can be easy to feel stuck and think that these emotions will last forever. However, just like weather is always changing, our emotions can always change as well. Sometimes it can be a helpful mindset shift for clients to view negative emotions in this way – they may not always be able to change their emotional weather in the moment, but they can find ways to get through it safely and with hope that better days are possible.
One thing to keep in mind is that this directive and metaphor is most helpful if you want to focus on the idea of acceptance of emotions, not trying to change them. We can’t change the weather – we can only accept the reality of it and do our best to cope through it. You can explore with clients what it’s like to accept the reality of the emotion and situation, then look at how can you change your thoughts and actions in responding to that emotion, even when you can’t change the emotion itself.
Think about what weather would express how you are feeling today and do an image of the weather.
I usually provide a variety of 2D art materials to my clients for this activity – drawing media, paints, and collage material – and let them choose what to use.
This can be a one-time activity or it could be something that the client repeats several times over multiple sessions or as homework in an art journal.
What was it like to try to represent your emotions as weather? Was it easy or challenging to decide how to do this? What did it feel like as you worked on your image and how does it feel to look at it now? Consider exploring the art elements with your client – what types of colors did they use? Is the art piece controlled and structured? Energetic and loose? Chaotic or out of control? Does the metaphor of weather change anything about the way you (client) think of emotions? What can you do to help yourself during this particular emotional weather?
Did you try this art activity in your therapy sessions? How did it go? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
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.
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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