15 Art Therapy Ideas to Overcome Anxiety
Art therapy for anxiety is an emerging form of treatment. While research evidence on its effectiveness remains sparse, particularly for social anxiety disorder, the idea of it is certainly appealing.
Sometimes it seems like those with anxiety are required to spend a lot of time “thinking” about their thoughts during therapy. For those who already overthink, this could be mentally taxing. Art therapy is a way to release this need to think.
If this is you, and you’d like to use art therapy to help you relax, be sure to grab a copy of my FREE LIST of the top five cheap tools I recommend for getting started with art therapy for anxiety at the bottom of this post.
Art Therapy Definitions
There are two definitions of art therapy.
“Art as therapy” refers to the process of creating art as being therapeutic and a source of growth.
In contrast, “art in psychotherapy” refers to the use of art during the psychotherapy process to communicate between a therapist and client.
Those who use “art as therapy” can be art teachers, while those who practice “art as psychotherapy” will usually be a registered helping professional such as a psychologist or social worker.
Art Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder
Art therapy may also be helpful if you have trouble expressing yourself verbally, as it gives you a creative outlet in a non-threatening context. Different from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which requires you to be able to communicate with your therapist from the start, art therapy doesn’t require anything of you in terms of communication.
In cases where trauma or neglect is underlying the development of social anxiety, art therapy may be helpful for a patient to begin to open up to a therapist. Being able to share these past experiences and learn how to cope with them may be a starting point within psychotherapy to work on negative thinking patterns.
Finally, creating art may help a client with social anxiety to relax, reduce stress, and redirect negative thoughts. Art therapy is also often practiced in a group setting, which can help in creating connections with other people, building social skills, and raising self-esteem.
Critiquing each other’s work can also help you improve communication skills and overcome the fear of being judged. In this way, art therapy could almost be a type of exposure therapy.
(Watch the video below to learn how art therapy is used by a therapist to help her client with panic attacks)
Practicing Art Therapy for Anxiety at Home
Below is a list of simple art therapy activities that you can try out on your own. If you try any of these, feel free to share how it worked out for you in the comments. Again, if you’re not sure where to start, grab my FREE LIST of five tools to get started that you probably already own at the bottom of this post.
- Paint an abstract that expresses how you are feeling in the moment. Put on music as you paint.
- Keep an art journal to visually express your feelings.
- Draw or color a mandala as a meditation exercise.
- Paint something in calming colors and hang it on your wall.
- Sit in a park with a sketchbook and draw.
- Take photographs of things that you find beautiful.
- Create art for the important people in your life.
- Create a comic strip about a funny moment in your life.
- Design a postcard for someone who has hurt you but never send it.
- Make a collage of your perfect day.
- Create a keychain with an inspirational word.
- Create a sculpture.
- Join an art club or class, or sign up for a paint nite experience.
- At the beach, create a design in the sand.
- Create an outdoor garden as an artistic project.
Most importantly, as you engage in art therapy, don’t judge what you are doing. The process is what is important, not the end product. Try to lose yourself in the process of creating and allow your mind to become still.
GET MY LIST OF THE TOP FIVE CHEAP TOOLS YOU NEED TO GET STARTED WITH ART THERAPY FOR ANXIETY
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