Tag: #arttherapy

Rebalancing

Have you taken the temperature of your mental health? With the recent increase in using thermometers to check for symptoms of COVID-19, I started thinking about the general imbalance of attention to our mind with respect to our overall well-being.

We may seek advice from a nutrition expert when we want to eat healthier, or look to exercise experts to find out better ways to move our bodies when we want to strengthen our muscles or increase flexibility. Also, we go to church services, read blogs from spiritual mentors or seek other types of spiritual counsel when it comes to improving our spiritual lives. If we freely tend to these aspects of our lives, then why do we hesitate to seek out a therapist for our mental health?

Our mental health is an equal component of our overall well-being. One could say it even has top priority since the phrase is, Mind-Body-Spirit. That said, our collective mental health is grieved right now.

As a society we are experiencing loss, great loss. Not only loss of life, which is devastating, but also loss of work, loss of schedule and routine, a loss of sensory inputs through our tactile awareness that bring about a loss of equilibrium, known as homeostasis. Homeostasis is our natural, physiological balance or rhythm.

You might not realize how important your sensory inputs are to the rhythm of your life. Consider the sound of the alarm at a certain time, how often you snooze, the smell of the morning coffee or tea, showering, different clothing for work, taste of food at certain hours from certain vendors, the clank of the keys, sounds of cars speeding by, sounds and smells of the city bus or train, keys in the door, the sensation of driving, holding the steering wheel and having traffic around you, the sound of work shoes on concrete sidewalks, and so much more. These sights, sounds, tastes, smells and the things we feel, all contribute to the sensory inputs of our regular routine.

Think of your personal homeostasis as a mobile. Each of those tactile elements are different….not everything is equal but it’s all in balance to make up our regular routine. Once one thing is knocked out of whack, everything else in the mobile moves and continues to seek balance, seeking it’s natural rhythm, homeostasis. That’s part of why we feel out of whack, maybe a little depressed.

So what do we do about it?

Move. Start by taking a look at what actually is still part of your normal routine. If you are not going back to work for a while, pay attention to which of the five senses needs to be activated. Maybe you need to get flowers that smell good and look pretty, maybe specific foods that remind you of your previous routine. Or search out foods that are comforting to you. Find textures that appeal to you, be aware of the ones that are soothing, or satisfying for sound and feel. Go and do things that activate your senses.

We all have different circumstances and varying levels of resiliency. Take your mental health temperature, and if you recognize you need more help to return to homeostasis, it’s ok. We can help.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Image credit: Wooden Mobile “Expressions” by DJECO

Art Activity: Mosaic Collage

I don’t know about you, but during this stressful time I struggle to focus and my mind seems to wander more easily. To manage this, I’ve been using the art-making process of creating a mosaic collage out of old magazines, calendar pages, and advertisements.

This art project involves ripping or cutting colorful paper into small pieces and gluing them onto a canvas, board, or thick paper to create a mosaic collage of a pleasing image.

The physical action of ripping or cutting paper can help us release stress, but we don’t stop there. When composing a pleasing image, we need to slow down as we make selections from our various pieces of paper. We make design decisions which help us to focus. It soothes and calms us as we apply glue to the back of each piece and build our collage design, one piece at a time.

This activity also helps us make a shift in how we view the things around us. We now might look at a magazine page or advertisement as art materials and not junk mail, for instance. Learning to shift our view through the art-making process can make it easier for us to look at our lives from a fresh perspective as well.

Your mosaic collage design can be whatever you want: a landscape, flower, abstract image, or even a portrait made from various images of eyes, lips and hair. This is also a good art project for students. You can use it to practice color theory, compare patterns, and learn shapes.

Here are some basic directions:

Gather materials:

  • Old magazines, advertisements, calendars and even old artwork
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Glue stick or bottled glue
  • Canvas, board, or paper (paper bags also work well)
  • Muffin tin or containers for sorting (optional)
  • Damp rag or paper towel for wiping fingers

Instructions:

  1. Look at the collected items for color and pattern. Use what you see to help you decide on your design.
  2. Tear or cut pages into approximately 1” size pieces. You decide if you want the pieces to be bigger or smaller, and they can be whatever shape you want. I find that squares are the easiest to cut out quickly.
  3. Sort the pieces by color, pattern, and maybe words. A muffin tin works well for this. For instance, place separate colors, leaf patterns, and flowers in different sections. This will make it easier to select your pieces when you are creating your design.
  4. Place your sheet of paper on the table in front of you. Set out your glue and a damp rag for wiping your fingers next to it. Place the muffin tin so you can easily see all the pieces.
  5. Decide what image you want to create. Do you want to make a self-portrait, or a landscape scene, or a bright colorful flower? You could even choose a famous art piece and recreate it with your mosaic pieces. It can be silly and wacky or soothing and calm. You get to decide what you want this to be.
  6. Start by laying out a few pieces and arrange them until you are satisfied. Take time to play with your layout. Have fun!
  7. Glue these pieces down before adding more.
  8. Keep adding pieces and gluing them down. You get to say when your piece is finished!
  9. Set your new artwork aside to dry.
  10. Don’t forget to clean up!
  11. Share your picture with family and friends and invite them to make one of their own!

Congratulations! You turned trash into treasure. Well done.

Keep following us for more fun ideas and interesting articles. Thank you.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Art Activity: Found Objects Mandala

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We need to move! It’s important for our mental and emotional well-being to get up and move around when we’re confined to our homes. Step outside, smell the fresh air and explore the world around you. Movement or exercise breaks up the monotony of being isolated indoors.

Need a little incentive? Challenge yourself to create art in the form of a mandala using the natural elements you find as you observe and explore your surroundings. It will get you moving and stimulate your brain. 

A mandala is basically a design inside of a circle. Think of it as a flower or a circular pattern that you make with layers. We often see them in adult coloring books with intricate patterns.

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Nature Mandala Instructions 

Found-objects in nature

  1. Pick a location for your nature mandala. Maybe your yard near the sidewalk, a road,  or in your favorite park along a walking path. Place it so others can see your creation because it’ll brighten their spirits and they may be inspired to add to it! 
  2. Place a rock in the middle of the area you’ve selected. 
  3. Surround it with other rocks in alternating colors or textures. 
  4. Possibly add sticks or pine cones. (It’s best to use things that won’t blow away in the wind.)
  5. Take pictures to share with friends and challenge them to create their own nature mandala. 

The basic idea is to get outside, make art with nature, and hopefully involve others. Plus, it looks cool!

Tree Mandala

If you can’t get outdoors, create a mandala at home using objects found around the house.

Home Mandala Instructions

Found-objects in house

  1. Pick a location for your mandala such as in the middle of the table or on the floor. 
  2. Decide on a theme. Maybe things that make you happy, are colorful, or are found only in your kitchen, for example.
  3. Look for an object to use for the center of the design.
  4. For the next layer, look around your home for interesting items that all have the same color or shape, for instance.
  5. Place those items around the center object.
  6. Now keep adding layers that extend from the center.

Creating your own mandala from objects found in nature or around the house is a wonderful way to see items around us with a new creative perspective. We can invite friends to do the same thing and potentially build a creative community!

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Telehealth for Art Therapy

Did you know you can do art therapy through telehealth? If you are feeling more and more stressed right now and haven’t seen a Therapist before, this is a great time to start. Art therapy through Art Lab Rx is the perfect place to begin. You do not need to be an artist to benefit from art therapy.

As an Art Therapist I often hear new clients ask if it’s okay if they only draw stick people. Yes, stick people are great because they, too, tell a story. Even though we are trained to be concerned about the outcome of our art pieces since grade school, that is NOT the most important thing in art therapy. 

Your work with an Art Therapist is more about the process and less about the final art product. We guide you through creative self-expression interventions that help keep you pleasantly engaged without too much difficulty in order for you to get into the flow of art-making. 

Traditionally this is done face-to-face, however, since the onset of COVID-19 and social distancing, Telehealth is a wonderful format for art therapy sessions. I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure I could get the same connection with my clients through an electronic session, but there’s actually more personal connection than I first thought. I have been able to maintain consistency by continuing to work this way with clients. 

Telehealth services are safe and secure with a HIPAA compliant platform and ethical guidelines apply to your Telehealth sessions. Your privacy is protected because nothing is recorded, saved, or captured. 

Art therapy through Telehealth could be a less intimidating platform if you’ve never been to therapy before. 

How to prepare yourself for a successful Telehealth session:

  1. Safe Space – Find a room where you will be comfortable with minimal distractions. It’s best to close the door… use headphones if needed. Create “white noise” by turning a fan on outside of the door and turn off music in the room. 
  2. Lighting – Have a well lit room where the light is at your side or above you but not behind you. 
  3. Technology – You can use a laptop, desktop, phone or tablet. Make sure you have a good internet connection with the latest version of Firefox or Chrome.
  4. Art Materials – Gather whatever art supplies you have on hand. We will work with what you’ve got.  
  5. YOU – Breathe…this is new and different, we get it, and if you tell your therapist how you’re feeling about the process, we can work through anxiety or fears together. We make it work for you. 

Seeking therapy when life is overwhelming or stressful is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Telehealth removes the access barrier to therapy when you need it most. Contact us, we are here to help. 

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Creative Break

Our schedules are disrupted and our senses are either over- or under-stimulated because the normal things we hear, see, and touch in our daily routines have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your emotions are real and valid. We all need ways to express strong emotions in productive ways that don’t diminish their value.

Take a creative break. Making art can be a soothing activity to engage and manage our senses. Here is a simple watercolor painting project you can try at home. If you trust the process, it can take you from perceived chaos to a sense of calm while discovering unexpected beauty.

The key is to intentionally observe how wet pigment moves, swirls, and interacts on wet paper while being safely contained on the page. This process helps us acknowledge the chaos around us while at the same time, regain a sense of control. Have the courage to shift from feelings of anxiety to peaceful acceptance and curiosity. 

This step-by-step process is one way to use color and creative self expression to soothe and ground yourself during times of stress. 

Gather basic tools:

          • Water in a cup
          • Paintbrush
          • Sketchbook, mixed media, or watercolor paper
          • Watercolor paints

Instructions:

  1. Set up a painting station with your paper in the middle
    2. Place your paint, water cup and brush on the right side if you are right handed, left side if you are left handed.
    3. With your wet brush, add a drop or two of clean water into each color in your paint pallet to activate the pigment.4. Dip a clean brush into your water and paint a small to medium sized shape onto the paper, adding more water if necessary to keep it wet.5. Dip your wet brush into a color of your choice, then gently touch the tip of your brush onto the wet paper in 2 or 3 spots.6. Watch what happens as the color spreads, swirls, and moves in random shapes.
    7. Clean your brush and repeat the process with another color of your choice. Tip: Add small drops of water to the paper as needed so the colors can flow naturally.8. Give yourself permission to move slowly and observe the pigments interacting.
    9. Add a few more colors if you wish.10. Allow it to dry and marvel at the finished product.11. Great, you’ve done it! Now explore more. Try another shape with new colors.

Now, pause and check in with yourself. How do you feel? How did this help? If this has made a difference for you, please share this with friends and family to stay creatively connected with them.

Take a Creative Break.

Give yourself permission to try other materials and methods.

Make art.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Make Your Mark

We are born to create. It’s in our DNA. We were made in the image of the Master Artist himself, yet we often discount what is innate by saying “oh, I’m not good at art,” “I can’t draw” or “I’m not creative.” Maybe we narrow the definition of creativity to artistic ability alone. It’s as if there’s some unattainable, high standard for a creative outcome where everything we create must be a masterpiece, ready to be framed and put in a gallery.

Creativity is much more about the process than it is about the product. It provides a release and causes a sense of relief by helping to clear your mind and calm your nerves. “Anything that engages your creative mind — the ability to make connections between unrelated things and imagine new ways to communicate — is good for you,” says Girija Kaimal, a professor at Drexel University and researcher in art therapy. [Source: NPR.org]

All forms of creative self-expression can enhance your life, doodling, coloring, knitting, baking, scrapbooking, woodworking – the sky’s the limit. It enables flexible-thinking, improves your ability to focus and can help you make sense of your emotions. Because it can be relaxing, it allows you to experience a state of flow. Also, “engaging in any sort of visual expression results in the reward pathway in the brain being activated,” says Kaimal. “Which means that you feel good and it’s perceived as a pleasurable experience.”

Try picking up a brush or a marker and just start creating for the sake of creating. Who cares what it looks like? Give yourself permission to play. Don’t be afraid of making a mess as you might discover your own style, your own expression… your own mark. 

God loves all forms of creativity. He specifically called people to make artwork, music, dance, writing, and more. Find out what type of self-expression works for you. Be brave and overcome the fear of making a mistake…make a mark, you’ll feel better, you’ll live better.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Gratitude in Struggle

Being grateful does not mean things are easy. But gratitude can be a blessing when expressed while we are going through our most difficult challenges in life. Lately I’ve been through various trials and horrific experiences, and while I would never choose to go through them, I can see how I am growing and changing as a result of these struggles. I am thankful for this growth.

Feeling gratitude during conflict is not easy and it may be the last thing we want to do but focusing on gratitude opens our hearts and minds to new ways of thinking. It can put our struggles into perspective and help us find balance. That stability gives us a platform for coping with difficulties. 

It is often only through times of change that we allow ourselves to grow and learn, to be stretched and pulled, to see things in a new way. That, in itself, is something to be grateful for as it is important for us to stretch our brain, heart, and spirit. This stretching of our minds, known as neuroplasticity, is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience. 

Our brains are amazing in their ability to adapt and change. In fact, studies have shown people continue to develop neuroplasticity through old age. So you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! 

In my art therapy practice, I have my clients use the art-making process to enter into a mindset of gratitude. The very act of considering art making for a specific intervention begins to develop new pathways in their brains. As they continue making art about their challenges, their minds continue to change and expand. Gratitude becomes a healthy companion in the recovery process as they begin to see problems in new ways and choose alternate ways of responding to them. They are learning new ways of living their life.

We learn best through experience and the things we learn help us cope with future challenges in life. Plus, our responses and expressions of gratitude can become a guide for others to mimic when they, too, experience challenges. 

Gratitude does not mean everything is okay. Gratitude does put us in a place of openness so we can respond better to our circumstances. For that, I am grateful.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Growth in Transition

I’m a learner. I may be an Art Therapist, business owner and Adjunct Professor, but I still remain a learner. I look at my life and the world around me in wonder and amazement. I hope that never changes.

Choosing a state of wonder helps me embrace life’s transitions and changes as it’s often full of circumstances I would never have chosen. I decide how I will face or manage what I’m given.

That mindset showed up in one of my art therapy courses during grad school. My classmates and I were invited to choose a paper bag among many on the table as we left for the evening. Each contained unknown items and we were told to go make an art piece. As I considered the contents; a child’s medical mask, several band-aids and a small rock, I began to look at each item from a “think outside the box” or in this case “think outside the bag” perspective. This was a fabulous exercise in expanding the imagination to solve a problem, a great life skill enhancing project.

What surprised me, when everyone brought in their projects the following week, was that I was the only one who incorporated the paper bag as a key element in the finished art piece.

In order for us to grow emotionally, spiritually and physically, I think we need to adjust and “think outside the box” of our given circumstances. We need to go beyond the basic elements and consider everything we’ve got before us. You’ve got more in you than you think.

What does it mean to be given an opportunity to grow or to heal? What does it look like for you to be in that vulnerable place where you NEED to struggle in order to change? Does it hurt? Can you look at it as a gift of being able to “look outside the box” of your situation and address it creatively? Does it force you to seek help from others? Does it nudge you to seek a time of restorative prayer? Where do you go for healing?

Lately I’ve I learned that I want to hold on to too much. I hold the stories of my clients, which is good, but I also have a tendency to hold what isn’t mine, what wasn’t meant for me to carry. During those times, I try to think of this bible passage in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I am not always gentle and humble towards myself; I need this reminder and this invitation to find rest for my soul.

After profound rest and deep healing we are changed. Sometimes we are stronger; sometimes more gentle, but we are definitely different. The outcome of our experience can surprise us. Give your burdens to God and let Him soothe you. You can count on His strength. Remain a learner.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Art Lab Rx, LLC
10225 Yellow Circle Drive
Minnetonka, MN 55343

Phone: 612-226-5472
info@artlabrx.com

Art Lab Rx, LLC was created in 2015 by Lisa M. Lounsbury. Art Lab Rx is a registered trademark. © 2018 Art Lab Rx. All rights reserved.