Art Therapy Experiential

The following is an abbreviated version of an Art Therapy experiential that I often give to first time clients to help warm them up to how Art Therapy can provide insight into concerns or issues that may not be in the forefront of the mind and thought. This process allows unconscious feelings and memories to bubble up from depths of their being.

If possible, read and implement one instruction at a time. This will give your mind an experience of not knowing what to expect and help your responses to be more spontaneous thereby reducing attempts to influence the outcome. Try to insure that you won’t be interrupted. Turn off intrusive electrical devices. You may want to silence your cell phone. The entire process should take approximately 15-20 minutes. You will need a pen or pencil and three separate sheets of 8-1/2” x 11” paper (or close to that size) to write on, one sheet for each image. Print out the images, if you can for later.

1) Look at the following 3 photographs on your computer screen. Take a few minutes (2-3 min.) with each of the images. Look at the images one by one. Allow personal associations to come up. They could be positive, negative or neutral. Don’t judge the associations that come up.

2) Write between 5-10 ‘Stream of Consciousness’ words or phrases that come to mind for each of the 3 images. By ‘Stream of Consciousness’, I mean individual words or short phrases triggered by the images that just pop into your mind. Those words/phrases will lead to other words/phrases and so on. Write the words/phrases associated with each image on a separate 8-1/2 x 11” piece of paper. Try not to over think, edit or judge the associations as they come up. Avoid sentences.) Example: using an image that is not part of this experiential, my stream of consciousness words were…drip, cry, tear, pool, cloud, water, nature, heaven, sad, and release. That took less than 1 minute.

3) Next identify and arrange the photographs in a way that makes most sense to you, visually, logically, or randomly. No need to think about which arrangement you are using. Number the images 1, 2, & 3. (If you have printed the photographs out arrange them in front of you. If you are working on the computer click between the photographs in the order you have assigned.)

4) Spend a few minutes with the images. Go over the words/phrases that you wrote for them. Go deeper into the associations that you made. Did they stir up memories or feelings? Did they take you back into the past or forward into the future? If the images did not provoke feelings or memories, see if you can find personal meaning in any part of it…even if it is frustration.

5) Look at the images in the sequence that you assigned to them (1, 2 & 3)…do the images tell a story? What is the story that the images tell? Allow yourself to connect with that story. In therapy, that story could provide an entry into the more mysterious, internal part of yourself. If the images and writings provoked a story, where are you now in the timeline of the story? In therapy, in addition to addressing the issues that you think are causing your problems it is important to allow the inner self to express itself. Some people call this the ‘psyche’. Psyche expresses itself in symbols and metaphor. Welcome to Art Therapy where practical concerns AND the ‘self’ them can be expressed.

© Copyright 2011 by By Barbara 'Basia' Mosinski, LCAT, ATR-BC, MA, MFA. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Lloyd

    May 16th, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    It’s always better to try to use an alternative method to help yourself come out with what’s inside of u…Because sometimes we are just not able to put across things to not only others but ourselves as well…This kind of a medium will give ample platform for expressing things within you…

  • danielle a

    May 16th, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    I have noticed a lot of articles lately about therapies and treatments that have you thinking outside of the proverbial box just a little. I like that. But what about the mainstream thinkers? Do you think that this is something that more and more people are warming up to or do you still feel like there is work to be done? I do not want people to get scared off by thinking that something is a little kooky when in reality it is just a little different than what they are normally accustomed to experiencing.

  • Kevin Headley

    May 16th, 2011 at 6:40 PM

    Never heard of art therapy before. This is really new to me. Maybe it’s not popular now. How effective is it?

  • Basia Mosinski

    May 16th, 2011 at 7:54 PM

    Hi Danielle,

    Of course, we know that people are very different in what they are comfortable with and motivated by. Experience shows that resistance to change comes in many forms. Sometimes we humans need to almost trick ourselves into not falling into old familiar patterns that have us revolving around the same issues saying that we want help but resisting guidance to change.

    Your question about mainstream thinkers is interesting. I do think that more and more people are ‘warming up to’ Art Psychotherapy. I see it everyday. In a city like New York, there are many artists and people working in the arts, like fashion, design, media, etc. They already understand that the creative side leads to solutions problems. The same can be applied to emotional problems.

    Sometimes it takes something a little different than what people are normally accustomed to experiencing to relax the mind and open the heart. In my work with clients, often clients cannot simply think their way out of their problems. They have to utilize their senses and instincts to determine their direction in conjunction with thought and experience. The creative processes foster the agility of senses.

  • danielle a

    May 17th, 2011 at 4:21 AM

    thanks Basia

  • Lewis A

    May 17th, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Art therapy sounds like something that would work,but maybe not for everybody. Maybe a person cannot appreciate art,cannot understand the art work too well…Wouldn’t it be tougher to treat such people?

  • Basia Mosinski

    May 18th, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    Hi Kevin, to answer your question about the effectiveness of Art Psychotherapy, I have found that it can be very effective in treating grief, loss and trauma. Of course it requires a treatment plan and identifiable goals that are unique for that individual. Some clients use the art materials to calm themselves down or to go inward, into their internal world. Sometimes my clients come in and talk. Maybe I will ask them to visualize an energy that they feel inside of them or visualize a person that they are having trouble with. I might ask the client to have a dialogue with that person or with their artwork in order to gain a deeper understanding of what is going on inside.

    Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all kind of activity. Some people respond better to different techniques and philosophies, others don’t. The best way to assess which therapist or modality to work with is to speak with that therapist, ask questions and look for a therapist who specializes in what is unique to you.

    Thanks for your question.
    Basia Mosinski

  • Basia Mosinski

    May 18th, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    Hi Lewis, to address your comment about Art Psychotherapy being useful for someone who can understands art. I don’t believe that a person has to understand art to part take in Art Psychotherapy. It works best for someone who already has an understanding that humans are creative beings and that art is a form of communication.

    Early in my career, I worked for a short time in a hospital Detox Unit. People in detox are usually not feeling very well physically and emotionally. For some people on the unit, art therapy gave them something to occupy them and for some an opportunity to reflect on the choices they had made that got them into detox. Art has a way of mirroring what is happening inside.

    Thank you for your comment.
    Basia Mosinski

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