Friday, April 2, 2010

"What's it like when you feel better.."

Rebecca had some great suggestions for a novice art therapist on a list-serve we are both on, and she's let me share some of her ideas here, too. She talked about how when she does art therapy with people who are in crisis, her goals include helping people understand the connection between mind and body, helping people feel support and connection, and focusing on feeling that their lives are increasingly meaningful and enjoyable.

These sound like pretty good goals for the rest of us as well, so I thought I’d pass along her ideas.

Rebecca says that she asks people, "What is it like when you feel "better"….often with a warm up discussion about what it's like when it's "worse"--She asks, "How would you know that things were better, what changes would you experience, what would others observe, has it ever been better and if so what was different in your life, and, if not,  what would it be like?". Then, "If you felt better, what would you be doing, who would you be with, where would you be, what would it look like?”
Something to think about.

Rebecca continued: "What gives your life meaning? We have all had tough times, how have you survived the dark night of the soul? Who are the people that help and support you?"

What are your strengths and how have they helped you survive? (Imagine a friendly person in your life, how would they respond if asked to list a strength of yours…mightn’t they say, "friendly," "funny," "kind," "observant," "helpful to others", etc...).

What are the things for which you are grateful even in these troubling times?

Make some art about what comes to mind…

To address improving the body-mind connection, Rebecca suggests focusing on breathing, and do a sort of mental body scan in which you close your eyes and just note and observe the body starting with feet up through body and head, also attend to  breathing—this is based upon work of Jon Kabat-Zinn—then respond to the process by making art either in a mandala or an outline of the figure. Identify, using color line and shape, the areas where you experienced sensation or not, drawing colors and lines to represent that experience. If there are areas of concern or pain, people can modify the drawing to "make it better".

You could do a drawing like this, in your journal, at home, or even on your lunch hour…I think there might be benefits like Reecca sees at her work.  Because we have found, art can be a door to happiness.  What's been your experience?

Enjoy the spring,



  1. Who is Rebecca? Why are her words on your website? What is there no obvious link to her?

  2. Hi Anita,
    Thanks for your comment! Rebecca is Rebecca Wilkinson, MA, ATR-BC, who I collaborate with often; you'll see her listed many times if you read the whole blog and look at the various workshops and lectures we are doing together. Her words are posted with her permission, as I did ask her if I could post this as part of professional courtsy, and I posted her thoughts because she inspires me, and her ideas and approch to art therapy makes me happy, I thought she just might inspire others as well...
    Warmly, Gioia

  3. Gioia,

    I do exactly the practice that you mention... I art journal on my lunch break. I do it for self-care purposes as a therapist. More info about that can be found on my blog at

    But I think that it is a GREAT practice!


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Gioia Chilton is a registered and board certified art therapist.


Gioia Chilton, MA, ATR-BC

Gioia Chilton, MA, ATR-BC