Art Therapy to Increase Self-Awareness

I came across this art therapy lesson plan the other day and found it to be fascinating! It discusses the generals of art therapy as a field and discusses various techniques. If you want a good general overview of art therapy, definitely look at this site!

The lesson plan also suggested some exercises that may be useful. The exercises are designed for art therapists to use with their clients, particularly in group settings, but the exercises can be used in a self-guided manner as well.

I decided to try my hand at the “Draw Yourself as an Animal” exercise.

I had a particularly challenging internship over the past summer where I helped care for several African elephants and white rhinos. They were amazing creatures, particularly the elephants. I absolutely adored their family structures. Elephants are extremely emotional, caring creatures who express love easily with other elephants in their social group.

I like to think of myself as a very caring person, so I chose an elephant to be my personality projection. In addition to the personality projection concept, I integrated the family sculpture technique that I came across in my research last week. This technique draws on how a person feels about his or her place in the family structure.


Watercolors and pen

I created the background of the image using watercolors on watercolor specific paper. Watercolors can be really fun to paint with. You can change the amount of water to change the hues, which makes them really great for sunsets (or sunrises if you’re a morning person, which I am definitely not! The only sunrises I see are when I’m staying up from the night before). Then I drew the elephants in with a Sharpie, which was trashed afterwards. I learned that watercolor paper is extremely rough on a Sharpie. RIP my dear drawing implement.

When I was painting this I definitely realized some things about how I was feeling about myself. I drew myself as a baby elephant, despite the fact that I am a legal adult. I keep trying to think of myself as an adult, but at the end of the day I still feel like a little girl trying to walk around in her mother’s heels.

I also look like I am falling behind my family, which is very fitting based on how I have been feeling lately.¬†I adore my family, but lately I feel as if I am constantly running to catch up and stay connected while I’m attending college. This is an extremely upsetting for me, but I didn’t quite realize how disconnected I felt until I began trying to put my feelings into an image.

And that is the beauty of using art to work through emotions. I found out things I didn’t even realize about myself as I tried to draw myself on paper.