Art Therapy sessions can be carried out ‘one-on-one’ or in group form, where it can be carried out in a directive or a non-directive approach. The following article is a documentation of a directive group Art Therapy session that was carried out with 5 participants who attended to explore the process of an Art Therapy group session. No names will be mentioned in the following article to protect and respect clients’ identities, as Art Therapy is confidential.

The main aims of the session was to give participants a sense of self exploration as well as providing them with a space to express thoughts, feelings and use it as a way to let go, relax and trust the process of making.

The session was facilitated and led by certified Art Psychotherapist, Sara Barjakly. It started by Sara introducing the participants to the meaning of Art Therapy as well as briefing them on how the session will take place.

The participants were not familiar with one another, so each one was asked to introduce his/herself and add one sentence about themselves to break the ice.

As this session was a directive one, Sara directed the participants and instructed every step. To warm up, they were asked to close their eyes and doodle freely on shared large-sized paper for a few minutes.

This process was carried out to give participants a chance to warm up their hands and minds to the art materials and also as a way to allow their brains to freely create without feeling overwhelmed by being too aware of what to draw first and how to fill their blank white papers. The sound of the pencils against the paper was the first element the participants took notice of. Some found it easier to let go while others found it harder to doodle with closed eyes. Once the time was up, the participants were asked to look for images within their doodles.

This process gave them a chance to look closer into their drawings. Some noted that it was hard to find images within. Those who found it easier were surprised by what came up in their drawing, such as a globe for example. We discussed this process and the participants realised how our visions could at times limit what we see and that our expectations of doing things the right way or finding a certain image could sometimes get in the way of freeing up the process of creating.

For the second part of the session, the participants were asked to make a list of six things that made them feel happy and to assign a colour for each one. They were then asked to assign a colour that represents them.

They were then asked to trace life-sized outlines of each other onto large pieces of paper and to then begin to fill the things on their list onto where they resonate in their bodies.

There was a sense of playfulness throughout this process. The participants were able to take a closer look at each other, while tracing their outlines and were surprised by the outcome. Some commented that they were surprised by how big and tall they look on paper, while some found their outlines funny.

They then began to fill out the blank outline using paint.

The space went relatively quiet during this process as participants concentrated and considered where and how they would place the items on their lists onto the drawings of their bodies.

Some participants commented that they did not want the time to end because the process was enjoyable so we took a few more minutes to allow them to make additions; exploring and using different art materials that were available.

Finally, everyone gathered in a circle where all the artwork was visible and began to discuss the process, as well as upcoming thoughts and feelings. It was noticeable that some of the participants shared similar items on their lists. One of these was that the sound, smell and feeling of rain made them happy. This was described in blue and placed on the top part of their bodies.

Participants noted feeling nostalgic while creating, saying that the process took them back to their childhood.  Overall, participants noted a sense of relief after the session, saying they feel happier and calmer.

Art Therapy not only helps clients express thoughts and feelings that may not be easy to express, but also allows them to self-reflect, which results in a form of relief at times.

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