At the deepest level, the creative process and the healing process arise from a single source. When you are an artist, you are a healer; A wordless trust of the same mystery is the foundation of your work and its integrity.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen
We have ongoing, bilingual Healing Circles utilizing art therapy exercises at St. Paul’s Church in Houston. These circles are open to anyone seeking healing. We also have Healing Art Circles for Divorce Care and a Healing Art Circle for Sexual Assault/Abuse Survivors.
Here is a sample of six Healing Art Circles. We explore topics —emotions, stress, loss, strength, self-awareness, and transformation—by pairing them with specific art activities wrapped in healing circles.
Each circle follows a similar format:
- Social time
- Brief introduction to healing circles and agreements
- Enter circle: welcome, silence, opening prayer or poem, topic
- Check-in: What is on your heart today?
- Heart/Art sharing: Art therapy exercise
- Respond with art.
- Look at your art and try to see what it is telling you.
- Share about your art
- Harvesting/Check-out: What group wisdom are you taking with you today?
- Silence and closing prayer or poem
Here are six sample art exercises:
- Emotions. “Paint what is on your mind and in your heart. You do not need to begin with an idea. Choose a color and begin painting- see what happens. Enjoy the experience of painting.” Acrylic paints.
- Self Awareness: “This diorama can showcase an important moment in you life or a trauma that you experienced.” Source
- Stress & Creativity. “Create an experimental collage. Cut out the first images that appeal to you, or choose images that depict your worries. Discover new ideas and thoughts and process your concerns.” Collage materials and magazines
- Feelings Map. “Represent the following 6 feelings: anger, joy, sadness, fear, love of others, and love of self. Try to imagine what each emotion looks like in terms of size, shape, and color “ (The Art Therapy Sourcebook, Cathy Malchiodi, p. 161). Large paper and watercolor supplies
- Loss: Memory box. “Create a box about someone you love that you have lost. This will help you remember, but also recover.” Source
- New Energy. Scribbling with your non- dominant hand. “Working with the other hand can be freeing and helps one create uncensored, spontaneous images. Place a piece of white paper in front of you. Pick a chalk pastel and put it in center of the paper. Close your eyes and ask yourself a question or intention. Scribble around the paper for about 30 seconds or until you feel finished. Look for an image in your scribble. Add details to define the image.” Source: The Art Therapy Sourcebook, Cathy Malchiodi, p. 113. Pastels or other drawing supplies
To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images—that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions—I was inwardly calmed and reassured. Had I left those images hidden in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them.
Here is an example of the Wisdom we collected from one of these circles, “Resilient Images from Nature”:
I wanted to create a tree with trash around it…thinking about my personal insensitivity with nature. Even though I know the importance of taking care of nature and myself, with trash it is still standing.
I drew a rock, it is hard, and then with a difficult explosion the pieces will go out. It became a flower with small petals spreading out and new flowers will come out of it. The beginning was a rock, and the ending was a flower. An affirmation…we think that we are stuck, but we are not really. These are new imagination, new life, new rocks. Thinking of resilience…coming out from one piece.
I got an aloe plant and put rocks around it and then went out of town. When I came back I checked on it, and there were new aloe plants growing around it without any earth. Now I planted it and put it by my door as a reminder that even if you don’t have anything, you will survive and new things will come out for you.
I tried to make an image of snow, but there weren’t enough cotton balls so it turned into clouds. So many colors are behind the clouds, but there are always clouds. Even though right now there are mostly colors in my life, there are some places that are raining. I can still see my path in the colors but no idea where it is going. I want the clouds to all go away but they never will and that’s ok.
Header photo courtesy of Callanish