5 Art therapy activities +(pdf)

This article provides some effective art therapy activities for adults, children, and for teens PDF.

These art therapy techniques that have been mentioned can be used for therapeutic intervention and for coping with stress.

What are some effective art therapy activities?

Some effective art therapy activities include:

  • Art therapy postcard activity
  • Words to live by collage
  • Color your feelings
  • Unmasked – Expressive Art Therapy Directive
  • The lighthouse
  • The panic book

What is Art Therapy?

According to the American Art Therapy Association (2013) Art therapy is, 

“…an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”

Thus, it can be understood as a field of therapy that combines both art and psychotherapy to help develop self awareness, explore emotions, and address unresolved issues through a creative process, 

Art therapy is also used to develop social skills and raise self-confidence in young children and seeks to help individuals- even young ones- overcome emotional challenges and also develop a higher level of well-being. 

The process of art therapy does not require you to be gifted in artistic ability, rather it is a process of exploration without rights or wrongs; it simply teaches you to use creative outlets to support their own process of healing and learning without being hard on one’s self with judgement.

What are Art Therapy Activities?

Art therapy activities are various creative exercises such as colouring, creating collages, sculpting etc that can be practiced for increasing awareness about self, identifying emotions, enhancing problem-solving skills, and developing awareness. 

The following are some of the most effective art therapy activities that are helpful in helping an individual grow in awareness and coping skills in their therapeutic journey. 

Art Therapy Postcard Activity

This activity is to help individuals express themselves by distancing themselves from the problem or the people that have caused the hurt. 

It is an activity that allows people to develop awareness of their own emotions as well as what they would like to express to others without having to do it face to face- especially helpful if the person finds confrontation difficult.

This activity can be used one-to one or in group settings and often involves the following steps:

Take a blank postcard or use this link to print out one. One side has to be completely blank for drawing, and one side can be laid out with some lines for writing.

Reflect on a situation or person they feel or felt frustrated, angry, upset, or sad about and Spend some time to simply think about what happened and how they felt and what they would like to let the other person know. 

On the blank side of the postcard, draw or create a visual representation of how they felt or still feel about the experience with any material that you need with no limits to what they create or draw.

Next, On the lined side of the postcard, write what  you would like to say to them if they were faced with the,.

Use what you have drawn and written to explore their emotions further and explore what they can do to bring healing and resolution.

Words to live by collage

This art therapy activity is for Teens who find it hard to be vulnerable in judgmental environments where they don’t feel safe to be who they are. 

This activity helps them to identify their core values and their own sense of identity while at the same time help develop coping skills and strategies when they face the stressors and challenges of their lives. 

The Words to Live By activity helps teens to identify and visualise the core values they hold on to through creative collage making. It requires materials like:

  • Old magazines, newspapers, picture books
  • Markers and colored pencils
  • Scissors and glue
  • Cardboard 

The process is as follows:

Take a moment to reflect on your core values or ask yourself what you feel strongly about. 

Once you have a good idea of your values, take a moment to reflect on these values by closing your eyes and focus on breathing. 

Allow you to find the words associated with these values along with the colour, images, shapes, and mood that represent these values. 

Next, when you are ready, begin selecting images, words, phrases, or colors from the magazines and newspapers. 

Use these materials to compile a collage that reflects your values and the words to live by. It can be any form but it has to reflect your values. 

You can find out more about this activity here

Color your feelings

This particular art therapy worksheet helps children express their emotions or develop an understanding of what they feel or care about. This activity might require children who are younger to be assisted and supported throughout the process. 

To make use of his activity, Start by asking the children to reflect on what makes them feel happy or what they are currently feeling. 

Next, ask them to create an outline of a heart and ask them to colour or fill the heart with various creative materials like glitter, paint, sequins etc. 

Finally, use the work they have done to discuss the emotions or the values they treasure by helping them develop a better understanding of their own emotions and the things that they find valuable. 

You can find out more about this activity here.

Unmasked – Expressive Art Therapy Directive

This particular art therapy exercise is for adults that are struggling to cope with or have been affected by eating disorders or body image conflicts.

The exercise is to be used under the initial guidance of a trained mental health service provided to help them reflect on the exercise and the activity itself. 

This activity involves creating masks or themselves by using blank masks or sheets that can be bought online or have an outline created.

Other things that are required for the activity include pens, feathers, beads, or other decorative material, some glue and a pair of scissors. 

The activity begins with the therapist or the practitioner inviting the individual to reflect on their protective masks that they use in various situations. 

The individual is invited to reflect in the instances where they have felt the need to wear this mask. Emphasis is given to help the individual the sort of emotions and behaviours they tend to mask over. 

Next, the person is asked to create the mask. 

Next, in opposition to it, the person and the therapist reflects on what is a healthier mask or option to put on in this situation- preferably the true self mask or the real mask. 

The individual is directed to create this true mask.

Then, the individual and the therapist can role play using these masks as well as discuss the various issues they face when wearing either kind of masks. 

You can find out more about this activity here

The lighthouse

This activity is for people who feel confused or lost when they are in distress. It is an activity that helps them feel hope by helping them develop an awareness of their own needs, their achievements and their own current growth and direction in their life or therapeutic journey.

This activity can be used for adults, children, and teens when they feel overwhelmed by challenges or their own emotions and thoughts. 

To make use of this activity, you will need the following materials:

  • Paper- colored or plain.
  • Pencils and pens- coloured.

To engage in this activity, start with a reflective state of mind. Take a moment to close your eyes, breathe deeply and focus on clearing your mind. 

Once you are settled, take a moment to reflect on a time in their lives where they felt lost, overwhelmed, and stuck. Remember that such experiences are normal and an experience that many people have. 

Now, take a moment to focus on this story where you have been out at sea on a clear day- on a boat- and as the day progressed, the weather has become stormy and the waves have become rough and high. 

You realise that you have lost your way and you are no longer sure how you can get back to shore. Just as you were struggling to find direction, envision a light in the distance and a lighthouse that is showing you the way towards the shore. 


Now, Bring yourself out of this meditative state and use the materials present to create an image of yourself at sea with the lighthouse in view.

As you make this image, depict yourself in relation to the lighthouse- you can be close to the shore, on the boat, or still far out- whatever you think is relevant. 

Make it a point that you add words, values, personal strengths, support systems etc, in relation to the lighthouse which can act or depict the various things in your life that are a source of guidance and light during difficult times. 

Take a moment to reflect on the image that you have created and explore these guiding lights with an attitude of gratitude.

You can learn more about this activity here

The panic book

This particular exercise involves helping people affected by panic disorder to create a book full of images that help them remain calm during stressful episodes while also helping them refocus on positive thoughts and emotions.

For this activity, you will need

  • Sketchbooks or blank notebooks
  • Markers and colored pencils
  • Magazines, newspapers, old picture books
  • Other decorative material like glitter if desired. 

Start this activity by having a discussion on how panic attacks make them feel or how their experiences of panic attacks are like. 

Now, place your booklet that will become their panic book in front of you. 

Use all the materials to begin creating their panic book- you can start with creating a theme based on certain maerobies that bring you joy or peace. Or certain ideas and values that help you cope in stressful situations. 

You can divide the book into various sections with these themes, memories, events, people etc and decorate it the way you want it to look like. 

There is no need to do the entire book in one sitting, you can come back to it over time as you explore or find more of these reassuring themes or resources as you go about your day or your therapeutic journey.

Whenever you feel a moment of panic approaching, refer to it as a resource to focus on the things that evoke calm emotions and keep it close to you.

You can find out more about this activity here

Conclusion:

This article provided some effective art therapy activities for adults, children, and for teens PDF that can be used for therapeutic intervention and for coping with stress.

References:

Mead.E. 15 Art Therapy Activities, Exercises & Ideas for Children and Adults Positive psychology. 26th october, 2021. Retrieved on 19th November 2021. https://positivepsychology.com/art-therapy/

Cherry.K. What is art therapy? Verywell Mind. 31st August 2021. Retrieved on 19th November 2021. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-art-therapy-2795755

FAQ related to Art therapy activities

What are 3 uses of art therapy?

While art therapy has a myriad of applications, three uses of art in therapy include:

  • Expressing emotions when people find it difficult to put their emotions and thoughts into words. 
  • Developing awareness of one’s beliefs, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Coping- it acts as a grounding technique when a person is feeling overwhelmed by their stressors. 

What disorders does art therapy treat?

Art therapy can be applied to multiple treatment strategies for various mental health disorders. It can help people with addictions, anxiety, attention disorders, grief and loss, dementia, depression, eating disorders, physical illness, PTSD, trauma, relationship issues. This form of therapy can help people with these disorders cope with their thoughts and emotions while also helping them develop self awareness.

How does art therapy help with trauma?

Art therapy can be an effective tool to be used to help trauma survivors cope with trauma. It can help people explore their feelings and thoughts about trauma while also exploring their own emotional experiences of the events. The activities of art therapy can help act as a coping strategy or a grounding technique for people with post traumatic issues.

Who can benefit from art therapy?

Art therapy is a therapeutic exercise that can be used in various applications and settings. This form of therapy can be most beneficial for the following people:

  • Adults experiencing stress.
  • Children with behavioral problems
  • Trauma survivors
  • Children with learning disabilities.
  • Emotional and mental health problems

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