Art therapy is a wonderful way to access another part of ourselves. At Cielo House we use this form of therapeutic intervention to bring another type of awareness to our clients. We are all accustomed to using verbal interactions with one another in order to communicate with each other on a daily basis. By using art we find a way to externalize our internal world that is perhaps different than we are accustomed to. We are able to express ourselves in another way and learn about another part of ourselves.
At Cielo House we lead groups using all types of artistic expression and mediums. Clients can use drawing, painting, collage, and even sculpture to express themselves. Clients are assured that no previous art experience and skill is necessary to participate. There is no wrong way to create, and creations of our clients are not being judged nor graded. Even the very act of creating can be cathartic and healing. Sometimes clients are surprised by what they have created. One of our most memorable groups, in fact was when we found a mannequin while on an outing and we created a collage on the mannequin to release our negative body image thoughts.
Our groups may have themes, for example we recently tried to express through art what anger looked like. It was a chance to express anger in a non-traditional way, perhaps leaving an open door to how this expression would be received by others. Clients had a chance to figure out different ways of expressing themselves than they were used to and in the process, discover a different way of seeing themselves.
Many of us have not done devoted time to artistic creation since we were children. We often forget how soothing and valuable it is to tap into our creativity and imagination. The recent popularity of coloring books made specifically for adults shows how the artistic medium can be a healthy coping skill for adults. There is something about the artistic process that allows us to access this inner child, and takes us back to time when we saw the world through a different lens, without the concerns and wounds of adulthood. Art provides a wonderful sandbox for our minds and our souls to go back into a more creative state, where we are likely to find out something wonderfully surprising about ourselves. Art therapy allows us to discover themselves in new ways, which is an important element of the Eating Disorder recovery process.
-by Sarah Rubin, MFT
Sarah Rubin is an Art Therapist at Cielo House Moss Beach, where she leads clients in the process of self-discovery through artistic expression and creativity.