Thursday, August 13, 2009

Finding your strenghs

A few years back, cabinet cards, those old pictures of people taken in the 19th century, were very popular in altered art circles. Lots of folk enjoyed putting wings or hats on the incongruous figures.

But when I found this first lady so bold and strong, I know she’d exemplified something about leadership and, I thought perhaps, being a mother. The kind of leadership moms grow into, over time. I want to lead as a mom, as a person, as an art therapist. I have her image hung up near my workplace, and she inspires me with her strength. Who inspires you?

We all have strengths, and the latest positive psychology research suggests that if you want to make positive change, it’s better to focus on strengths than problems. You can go to or to take the Values in Action Survey, and find out your “signature” strengths. Riddle and riddle (sic 2007) researched strengths among male art therapists using this survey. The results revealed that male art therapists have the highest scores in curiosity and interest in the world, and appreciation of beauty and excellence. My top three are appreciation of beauty and excellence, the capacity to love and be loved and curiosity and interest in the world. I wonder what other art therapists’ strengths are. I also wonder where the apostrophe goes in that sentence.

What are your strengths? You could take the survey, or just think about it. Or take the survey and make an art shrine to your strengths, like we will ask our Art Therapy & Positive Psychology students to do this fall. Lani Gerity thought this one up in her Artist’s Happiness Challenge (she might run that class again, do check out we website & blog for more). Only as I remember, she phrased it, make a shrine that is in gratitude to your strengths….In Massachusetts, Fialkov & Haddad are having their students tell and write about the story of their strengths, wondering about where their strengths are rooted in family of origin, culture, & gender, and then place their strengths in a story or image or enactment…


Chilton, G, & Wilkinson, R. A. (2009) Positive Art Therapy: Envisioning the Intersection of Art Therapy and Positive Psychology. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Fialkov, C. & Haddad, D. (2009) Appreciative Inquiry, self-reflection and the cultivation of strengths in teaching supervision. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Riddle, J. & riddle, h.m. (sic) (2007). Men and art therapy: A connection through
strengths. Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 24 (1), 10-15.


  1. this is a wonderful makes me happy just looking at it. I really appreciate you making this available to all of us.
    Nicole Brandstrup

  2. Got to spread the word about this awesome blog!
    Great work Gioia!


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Gioia Chilton is a registered and board certified art therapist.


Gioia Chilton, MA, ATR-BC

Gioia Chilton, MA, ATR-BC