Using therapeutic creative therapy tools can add to your self awareness and self discovery. Join guest author Nikki Howes as she shares ” Getting Creative: Unlocking The Healing Power of Art ” and how it helped her through her journey.
Written by: Nikki Howes
During the past few years I have made peace with my creativity. Many years ago I went to art school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after school and scored my highest grades in art so off I went to study theater design.
It was hard work, and given my perfectionist tendencies I found ‘crits’ challenging where the teacher and peer group would evaluate your work.
I was always comparing myself with other other students and feeling I came up short. I left there somewhat unsure about my creative abilities and wondering if I had what it took to ‘make it’ as a creative, I drifted from job to job and made little art.
When I did make art it was mostly out of fear of losing my skills, the joy of creativity was long gone. That was until a few years ago when I began to look at art therapy and study it’s practice.
Art’s Power To Heal
When first trying to use art as a therapeutic process I struggled with ‘not being good’ at drawing or painting. My self appraisal of art making was low, this is something that can be fairly common, how many times have you told yourself ‘I’m no good at’ or ‘I’m just not creative.’
We can call these negative beliefs about our ability, which are often based on early life experiences such as scoring low grade in art at school.
If we can start to challenge our limitations and start making art without it having to be ‘good and perfect’ we can start to unlock our creativity and be joyful in our art making with that brings happiness and spontaneity.
The evidence of this can be seen in the application of art therapy and art as therapy to clinical practices such as hospitals, community centers and rehabilitation units. The benefits of art making include:
- creative problem solving
- self expression
- social interaction (if you’re part of a class or group)
- release of emotions
- increased self awareness
Have you ever noticed how creative past times have a Zen like quality? Creativity doesn’t have to mean drawing, it can be gardening, baking, sewing, knitting, decoupage, music making, sculpture, photography and so on there are endless possibilities.
The medium you use is not important it’s about experimenting and having fun! There’s a vast amount of creative resources online with step by step tutorials.
I’d never used a sewing machine until 2010, I started following simple patterns and found that sewing helped me relax after work and increased my self esteem as I started to feel proud of what I was making (even when it wasn’t perfect.) Sewing helped me to let go and play, that childlike state I’d pushed aside in my adult life.
In her book The Artists’ Way Julia Cameron suggests writing three stream of consciousness page each morning to help free your mind and prepare you for the day ahead. This can be one way of becoming more creative.
Art as Self Reflection
Other than art making, using therapeutic creative therapy tools can add to self awareness and self discovery. Some tips for using these tools could be:
- Drawing yourself as a house. In dream work the house is representative of the self. Take some crayons and a large sheet of paper and draw a house that represents you, you might be surprised by what you draw.
- Write a letter to yourself or someone important in your life (do not send it) with your non-dominant hand. Using your non-dominant hand accesses the unconscious mind and ‘inner child.’ You will notice that your writing is more child like and what is written may be more intuitive than rational.
- Close your eyes and scribble. this can be a great way to release tension and increase spontaneity
Use colours to represent how you feel. Using a very large sheet of paper ask someone to draw around your body. You should have a outline of your body shape, within this use colours to map how you feel in different part of your body.
For example using red to represent anger, where on your body does this colour live? This exercise can help you be more in touch with your feelings in the moment.
Enjoy your art making. Our creativity is not given to a chosen ‘talented’ few. We all have a ability to create no matter what our experiences of art have been, explore and have fun!
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted in your life that took time, physically or mentally?
It took me along time to accept my diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed in August 2012 and found it hard to accept that my life needed to slow down and make some changes. I’d been living on adrenaline for so long and working in a busy counselling agency. I realized and accepted that I needed to look after myself more and ended up setting up my private counselling practice.
What do you appreciate about yourself and within your life?
About myself I appreciate most my kindness and willingness to help others. This was something I learnt from my mother, she raised my sister and I as a single mother and it was hard. However her kindness and goodness to others is unwavering and I’m glad some of it rubbed off on me. What I appreciate most about my life is the wonderful people I know and am around and of course my 2 cats.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What goals do you still have?
One of my most rewarding achievements was passing my masters in addiction counselling and psychology. It was pretty hard going as I was working full time as a counselor whilst I was doing it but I was so pleased that I completed. I still have loads of goals! I want to pass my driving test as I’ve taken it so many times, I’m determined to pass it!
What is your not-so-perfect way? What imperfections and quirks create your Identity?
Some of the quirks in my identity is I tend to be perfectionist. This can be helpful but can also makes it difficult to let go of things sometimes if they aren’t ‘just so’, I’m working on relaxing more. It’s a work in progress.
How would you complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my cats, I believe that every cat should have a loving home. I admire the work of animal shelters who rescue neglected and abandoned animals.
Nikki Howes is the founder and owner of Hope to Heal Counselling in Teddington, UK. An accredited counselor she works with people who feel stuck to help them to get unstuck. Nikki is passionate about talking therapies and providing clients with the tools they need to live the life they want. Nikki is also a group therapist and has specialisms in addiction, LBGTQIA specific and trauma counselling.