Art therapy materials can be used in many therapeutic contexts and may be particularly helpful in supporting verbal therapy. Creative techniques allow clients to reach and articulate feelings they might not otherwise have been able to express. They may be able to connect directly to emotions that have no verbal expression.
Working with clay offers clients the opportunity to work with a three-dimensional shape. Clay can be manipulated, formed and re-formed as the client explores experiences. If the client reaches a point where they wish to preserve the shape, it can be fired in a kiln to create a permanent object.
Plasticine and playdough may be used as a less messy alternative to clay.
Drawing allows a client to create a 2-D image. A variety of drawing materials may be utilised in art therapy, including pens, markers, chalk and charcoal. In addition, the client can be offered a selection of surfaces, ranging from paper and card to fabric or wood.
Lusebrink (1990) noted that chalk and oil pastels tend to be more fluid materials (more easily manipulated), while drawing materials such as coloured pencils are more restrictive (more controlled).
Drawing materials are often associated with childhood and this has implications for their use in therapy. They may be particularly helpful when exploring childhood experiences through art but can also trigger anxiety and emotional barriers to the activity, if the use of drawing materials reminds the client of previous ‘failures’ in school art classes.
As with drawing, painting allows clients to create 2-D images. Most types of paint are more fluid than drawing materials, less easily controlled but in some cases more expressive. The paint and surface can be selected to meet the needs of the individual client, for example, watercolours are fluid, almost ethereal, oil paints are more restrictive, solid and strong, while aerosol paints express a more urban, rebellious mood. The surface provided for painting can also be central to the client’s process. Small or minature surfaces require control and attention to detail, while large surfaces allow scope for exploration and large expression. Surfaces for painting may range from paper and card to walls or objects.
Photography allows clients to capture a moment in time. Each image can be seen as capturing a memory. Photographs may also express emotions and moods. Photographs may also express emotions and moods.
Photographic Diary Activity
Ask your client to take a photograph each day that represents their thoughts or mood that day. This provides a powerful visual record and can be helpful for clients who are developing self-awareness or self-regulation skills. The photographs produced can also be a starting point for therapy sessions, whether for discussion or as a basic material for further art work.
The tools used to create photographs may also be important. While almost every client will have access to digital photography through their mobile phone, there may be times when it is more relevant to the therapy process to use a traditional or vintage camera.
Old photographs can be used in collage to explore memories, experiences or relationships. Collages can be a powerful tool for expression of emotions. They may also be a work in progress, added to or adapted as therapy continues.
Photographs may also be used to create a collage of future goals. In this case, the images chosen are those that best represent the client’s goals or the life they aspire towards.
Art may also be created using non-traditional materials, perhaps materials that have special meaning for the client or speak to them in some way. Examples include books, letterpress, fabric, crafting materials, plant material such as leaves and flowers, printing materials, and digital tools.Read More