A few weeks ago I hosted a social gathering for women in recovery, and we had a local artist lead us through an art journaling workshop. As a writer and lover of all things creative, I was excited to spend a few hours expressing myself in a new way. I didn’t expect to leave having ignited a new flame of creativity!
The goal of Keely Rademacher, the artist who coached us, is to encourage healing through creative expression. I have to admit that initially I thought she was going to have us collect clippings from magazines to make a vision board, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The Process of Using Art in Recovery
Keely led us through the process of art journaling. An art journal is simply a visual record of thoughts, ideas, or emotions we’re feeling. You can use just about any media: crayons, watercolors, images, materials, and even words—anything goes! As a lover of words and journaling, this opened up a range of possibility for me. But even for those who’ve never thought of themselves or artists or even creative can benefit from the power of art journaling.
The first thing to do is let go of expectations. This isn’t something you have to show others on Instagram (unless you want to), and it isn’t being evaluated by anyone. It is just for you, so let your creative expression flow. The whole idea is that you have a new way to express yourself.
Of course, having a teacher helped! Keely suggested to us to that we could create a wheel of time, a snapshot of what 24 hours looks like in any given day. I couldn’t have written what I painted; it was like it came from another area of my brain. But it prompted an hour-long discussion with my therapist the following week!
My Experience with Art Therapy
I painted thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that I wasn’t conscious of. Many of my paintings revolved around the resistance I feel to sleeping, the desire to stay up longer than I should. I colored that feeling gray. I realized that I am not sleeping when I need to and that I could listen to my body’s cues that I need to rest more. I also created a snapshot of time in the evening that I know holds great possibility but during which I let myself get too drained by work and end up letting it pass me by. I saw that the colors I used throughout the day were a representation of my heating up (experiencing mounting stress). By the afternoon, I was coloring in red.
Had I not had this experience, I may not have opened a window that gave me a fresh insight into my mind. I was so blown away by the experience that I immediately ordered an art kit online so that I could begin incorporating art journaling into my morning routine. I’ve already filled 10 pages! Is there anything stopping you from creating? Why not give it a try? The power of art as therapy may surprise you.