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Art Therapy and Breathing Techniques

No matter what age you are these easy tips will help you feel more focused and centered.

Science reminds us just how important our breath is. We breathe and oxygen flows to our brain, we feel more relaxed, and ready to face challenges. So I invite you to try some of these breathing reminders below:

1. Belly breath
Get comfy with your feet on the floor. Inhale and notice where your breath is coming from. If it is in your chest start to image with each breath you inhale your breath moves lower and lower until it is finally in you belly. Imagine your belly balloon filling up then deflating. Try this for a minute; you'll be surprised how good it feels.

2. Superhero breath
Sometimes when you get really frustrated it's hard to concentrate, that's when it is handy to use your superhero breath. Not only is it helpful, but it is fun too! Pretend you are a superhero and use your full force powerful breath to blow away whatever is bothering you. It is so silly and fun you will feel better immediately- and no superhero tights are required!

3. Blow bubbles
You can do this with your imagination or with real bubbles. Blow big bubbles and imagine they are the worries you have. Exhale gently and name them as you watch them float away into the sky.

4. Happy Birthday
Imagine you have a big superfabulicious birthday cake with 100 candles on it. Then inhale through your nose and slowly exhale gently blowing out all the candles on the cake. It's your celebration so smile and enjoy!

Us can use the art materials to reinforce any of these breathing tools. For belly breathing you can pick a color chalk pastel the represents calm and color in a page of paper, inhaling and exhaling while coloring. For superhero breath use modeling clay or pencils/markers to make your own personal superhero. For blowing bubbles draw bubbles of worries then literally blow them away by shredding the paper into little bits and blowing them. Finally, create a big birthday cake ( clay or drawing) and have fun blowing out your candles and celebrating yourself!

Art Therapy - Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

The work I've been doing as an Art Therapist began with Choice Theory via the Glasser Institute, empowering clients to identify behaviors and them make better choices. This resonates especially with adolescents whom are at a stage in their lives where they want more autonomy and freedom, yet may make inconsistent choices to meet their desired needs. Another aspect is the unhappiness that can come from not having the relationship you want with the important people in your life. Choice Theory became my foundation in Art Therapy. When I was introduced to Greenspan's model of Floor Time (and more recently RDI) I was thrilled that the foundation of development was built on the relationships and respect for the individual (where he/she is at).

Art is so congruent with this model. As an Art Therapist I join the child at their cognitive/social developmental level. The creative process of art making and creative play allows for a child to move into the psychosocial stage of industry vs. inferiority. During this period a child with ASD can use the creative process to develop competency and mastery, this allows for further development of their self-esteem and consequently increases relationship development. Moreover, the art materials allow the child to develop from a sensorimotor cognitive basis of organizing activities in relation to the environment into a representational system of art making that allows for symbols to represent people, places and events.

The creative process allows for the development of concrete operations needed to solve problem logically. By using art materials a child can express themselves and receive acceptance and support from an Art Therapist. By allowing the child to progress through the developmental stages with support, a child will create art that represents preoperational thinking and may move toward concrete, then abstract thinking. The art making process not only allows for cognitive and social development, but is also a excellent means to help increase language acquisition and relationship building. It is empowering for a child to create an image that reflects their feelings. With the support of an Art Therapist a child can use the art as a means of exploring their feelings, power and mastery, choice making and relationships.

Art Therapy and Art Therapists Florida (FL): Helpful Information on the Business of Art Therapy

Careerbuilder.com listed art therapists as one of the top ten hot careers for 2007. In addition, there has been an explosion in research and interest linked to creativity and “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). Mainstream media has embraced mind, body, spirit connection and there is an awareness of alternative health treatment. There is a more mainstreamed acceptance of alternative therapies and the use of coaching (another unregulated profession) beyond business into the realms of life coaching, wellness coaching, parent coaching, etc. It is this mainstreamed awareness that is influencing the purchases of Cultural Creatives, (Lawless, 1997) the 24% of the population who are interested in sustainability, gobalism, alternative healthcare, spirituality, women’s issues, and self-actualization. In addition, 6% of the population are Inner Directive and are creative and orientated towards inner growth (Lawless, 1997). These are the consumers that are attracted to art therapy.

My past experience has been as an art therapist in private practice since 1997. Prior to graduating with my master’s degree in art therapy I worked in the human service field and have a total of eighteen years experience. When I lived in Upstate New York State I was a licensed creative arts therapist in private practice for ten years. This practice evolved out of the necessity to educate others about the benefits of art therapy, since there was little knowledge of the profession in the rural town I lived in. During that time I worked in 16 school districts with at-risk adolescents, ran groups at my practice, and presented at agencies, colleges, and hospitals.

When I moved to FL two years ago I shifted my practice from an emphasis of at-risk children and families to short-term solution orientated therapy influenced by Positive Psychology and Choice Theory. This shift came as a result of multiple conditions. Again I encountered obstacles regarding my chosen profession. In FL there is no licensure for art therapists, which means there is no regulation of title protection and anyone can state they are using art therapy. Although there is regulation from the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), there are minimal attempts to regulate scope of practice in states that do not recognize licensure. The major obstacle besides educating the public was the issue with lack of third party reimbursement. However, this issue has become an asset in practice. Because I cannot diagnose and fees are paid out of pocket I can address an issue a child or teen has been having without labeling. Moreover, for the gifted children I see who experience frustration and difficulty with self-regulation I can develop strategies to help them without a label that will follow them for life. Many parents feel that this is how they want their children’s problem treated, rather than focusing on defects and pathology. I also work with a team, so if the need arises for assessment outside of my scope of practice I am able to refer families for additional assistance.

I began a practice 4 years ago in two locations (Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch) with professional colleagues who had established businesses. At one location I work at a comprehensive medical educational success center attached to a school. This location houses developmental pediatricians, a developmental neurologist, social workers, and tutors. The focus of my practice has been with children, teens and their families. I have used the art therapy combined with Choice Theory (Glasser, 1998) to help the children make art that represents how they can change their thinking and feeling by changing what they are doing (cognitive behavioral). Moreover, I emphasize strengths and resources the child has to create a new paradigm of success and resiliency. My clients at this location often are struggling academically, in addition they are often are gifted. Many of my clients have been diagnosed by the pediatricians as having processing disorders and they may have difficulty organizing their thinking or are overwhelmed by frustration. I provide them with some concrete skills to navigate frustration and anxiety. In addition, I am referred many children who are diagnosed with autism/Asperger’s. I have synthesized the latest research on ASD (Gutstein, 2000) into a unique art therapy intervention that has yielded an increase in language skills, relationship building, flexibility and problem solving.

At my second office location I worked with a Social Worker who saw parents at the same time I worked with their children. We created a unique model of family therapy influenced by the work at the Savannah Family Institute (Sells, 2001), Choice Theory (Glasser, 1998) and Positive Psychology (Seligman, 2002). The model we created is called Tandem Therapy and it uses parent/child coaching to help the family clarify goals, identify stressors, and improve coping skills. Because the sessions were outcome driven, we tended to be able help the families create new patterns of behaviors in a limited amount of time.

My work thus far has been adaptive to my environment; considering the most effective way I can share the benefits of my experience and collaborating with others to create interventions based upon the needs the business addresses. In many ways I have been bending and blending my profession to be more “suitable” for a mainstream audience. This has led me to pursue my EdD degree at Argosy and obtain licensure as a mental health counselor. A year into the program at Argosy and almost two years into my career in FL I have begun to reassess the direction I am heading in. Argosy has introduced me to new approaches and information that has encouraged me to stay on top of the trends and developments in the field. Moreover, my personal development has encouraged me to look beyond the current scope of work I am doing and find a new direction that is more aligned with my non-pathology, problem solving orientation.

Because I have been in private practice for ten years I have had a fascination with business, marketing, and economic trends. I have developed a vision, strategies, tactics plan (Haskins, 1999) embracing the new direction I desire to move my business towards. Currently my business has shifted from focusing on solely children and families to also adult women in transition. Moreover, I have shifted the focus back to creativity (i.e. art therapy) due to changes in career demographics.

Many of the business books I reviewed discussed the importance of creating a niche to focus your business and identify your customers (Lawless, 1997, Edwards & Douglas, 1998, Falkenstein, 2000). Edwards & Douglas (1998) suggest, “your ideal niche will lie at the crossroads where your interests and assets intersect with opportunities you have to meet real-life needs around you” (p. 47). My compelling desire is to help individuals uncover their inherent creativity to solve their problems; my personal resources are my years of professional experience and my ability to synthesize information.

The Art of Making Change in Your Life

Change occurs for multiple reasons throughout our life cycle. Perhaps the choices one is making are no longer effective in their attempts to meet their needs, or when others have noticed ineffective behaviors and the individual is influenced by how their behaviors are impacting others. To be open to change an individual must move from the contemplation stage into the preparation/ action stages (Prochaska, 1999). Change is only possible if the individual becomes aware that what they are choosing to do no longer meets their needs. When they reach this point they are ready to move into the action, whereby they seek treatment to help them find solutions to their problems.

However, what a client may see as a problem may vary from what a therapist may see as the primary problem. To help the individual understand how their behaviors are impacting them and the important relationships in their lives it is imperative that a clinician offers new insights into how the client perceives the problem. To truly help a client become aware of their ineffective attempts to meet their needs a therapist must build a relationship of trust, compassion, understanding, humor, and safety unlike any other relationship that individual is currently experiencing in their lives. Almost all individuals seek therapy or are referred to therapy because they are experiencing problems with the important people in their lives. In order to help a client the therapeutic relationship must be a safe place for discovery, connection, and co-creation. It is within the alchemy of this relationship that the client often discovers the “ah-ha” moment.

To help facilitate change it is imperative to work from the client and families strengths as Pledge (2004) suggests. “What is the client and family already doing well that can be adapted to help them be more successful in the therapeutic task at hand” (p. 97)? Interventions that come from the client’s frame of reference provide an opportunity to integrate change more successfully. In order to develop cognitive integration the information must be presented via multiple experiences that connect with the client’s intelligence strengths as suggested by Gardner (1993). It is essential to present information via multiple intelligences, such as verbal/linguistic (talking), interpersonal (role-playing), visual/spatial (creating art), intrapersonal (journaling), logical/mathematical (problem solving) bodily/kinesthetic (creative play), musical (creating songs), or naturalistic (collecting and grouping objects). Therefore, the expressive arts can strengthen integration of new information by providing the clinician with tools to encourage client change. Art allows the client to move into action by creating what that change might look like or how their precept ions might be different when they experience their situation in a new way.

Art Therapy and Emotional Management for Children

If you are a parent then you have faced the challenge of helping your child find ways to manage those big feelings that at times seem to over take them. Those feelings of frustration, anger, or sadness that appear to storm out of nowhere and take over your calm rational child. Often parents are bewildered by the behaviors attached to these feelings such as tantrums, yelling, crying, refusal, inflexibility, shutting down, or hitting. Many calm rational parents, who have read the latest parenting books, still struggle with helping their children through the maze of these intense feelings and out of control behaviors. What may be lacking in traditional parenting methods is a way to teach your children emotional management skills that speak to them in their own natural language. Creative thinking offers a way to do just that.

Children who are unable to regulate strong emotions experience “melt-downs”. Brain research suggests that “emotional hijacking” occurs when there is a flooding of electro-chemicals in the brain. Children who experience a stressful situation may become emotion
ally escalated due to the amygdala being flooded by peptides and hormones. However, neuroscience suggests that by using your cortex, the analytical part of your brain, you can self-regulate strong emotions. When a child is in a learning environment that elicits strong negative emotions this can impact their ability to hear or comprehend what is being taught. The inability to regulate emotions may lead to social isolation, poor academic outcomes, and low self-esteem. However, there is a link between positive affective states and cognitive performance. Thereby, suggesting a relationship between positive affect, higher productivity, creative problem solving, memory, and logic. It is also suggested that increases in dopamine released by positive affect promotes creative problem solving. Moreover, the research on multiple intelligences offers some insight into the different ways a child learns and why some children learn through trying things out by doing a hands-on project.

So what does that mean to the parent who just wa
nts to help their child learn how to manage the big overwhelming feelings and out of control behaviors? It means that doing a creative and pleasurable activity may enhance a child’s learning. It also means that if a child is involved in a positive learning experience that is related to the way they process information, they may be able to learn and retain this information more readily. Five easy tips to help your child use their creativity for emotional management:
1. Use clay, or crayons, markers, and paper to create a character from their imagination to help them stop and think before they act. 2. Use clay to express their frustration and then create a new way to solve the problem they are encountering.
3. Come
up with a creative plan to stop their sibling from bugging them using markers to draw out their choices. 4. Children in a creative problem-solving group can create modeling clay figures to help them negotiate relationships and find ways to build social skills.
5. Take a creative break! When you notice your child becoming agitated and they are unable to talk through the problem have them take a break in their relaxation corner and use markers and crayons to express what they are feeling.

These creative exercises help children to “strengthen” their problem-solving muscles. In other words, they are building up their prefrontal cortex and when they are becoming emotionally charged they can use their creative thinking to get back in control. Creative thinking offers a way for your child to become in control of their emotions, not their emotions controlling them, and isn’t that what every parent wants?

Art Therapy in Schools


Art Therapy Definition:

Art therapy uses the creative process involved in making art to increase self-awareness, cope with symptoms, relieve stress and traumatic experiences, and enhance cognitive abilities. Art Therapy is used to treat depression, anxiety, anger, and aggression, substance abuse, oppositional tendencies, post-traumatic stress, attention deficit and hyperactivity, self-injurious behaviors, and physical and cognitive delays.

Benefits of Art Therapy Within an Alternative School Setting:

Most students in an alternative setting have not been successful in more traditional school settings. Many have had difficulty with relationships with peers and adults and have not learned healthy social skills. As a result they may see adults as a threat and use oppositional behaviors when engaging with adults. Many alternative students are kinetic learners and integrate information more readily while participating in an activity that reinforces the information presented. With this population, the use of art therapy reduces the initial resistance encountered in traditional verbal therapy.

Issues of anger and aggression can be diffused through the use of appropriate art materials. Students prone to self-injurious behaviors can use the art materials as a means of exploring control issues. The act of discharging feelings in a safe manner can help students find alternative means of expressing their emotions, rather than acting out by hurting themselves, or others.

Depressed students often communicate their feeling more effectively through the use of art. Often this leads to the student verbally identifying feelings they were unable express in the past, and identify healthier coping skills.

Students with poor impulse control benefit from the use of art materials. Many of these students are kinetic learners. Talking about their choices and consequences may not connect with these students. They may hear the outcome of their behaviors, however, some are unable to fully process and integrate this information. Using the art materials they are able to identify choices and the outcomes of their choices; this information is often relatable to experience they are having in the classroom or at home.

Students abusing substances to mask their feelings can use art to effectively explore their unhealthy means of coping and how their choices impact their lives (academically and socially). These students are often in denial of the influences substances have on their lives and have not learned other means of coping with their feelings. In the artwork they may express their attachment to substances, with the development of a trusting relationship they are able to identify other means of meeting their needs. The art images change from being centered on substances to a healthy identification of self and relationships with others.

Students with cognitive disabilities benefit from the use of art to help enhance decision-making skills and mastery of the materials. During the progression of the art sessions it becomes evident through the artwork that the student is developing cognitively. This is often reflected in the art as the work becomes more developmentally advanced through the use of form and schematic development. Individuals with physical disabilities also benefit from the use of fine and gross motor skills during the art making process.

What is Art Therapy?


Art Therapy was developed in the 1930's when psychiatrists studied artwork to see if there was a link between the art and the illness of their patients. The principle foundation of Art Therapy is based on the belief that the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life-enhancing. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes with an Art Therapist, one can increase awareness of self, cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences, enhance cognitive abilities, and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of artistic creativity.

Art Therapy is used to treat depression, anxiety, anger and aggression, substance abuse, oppositional tendencies, post traumatic stress, attention deficit and hyperactivity, and self-injurious behaviors (American Art Therapy Association).

Registered Art Therapists (ATR) are professionals trained in both art and therapy and hold a Masters degree in art therapy and have completed a 1000 hours post graduate supervision. Board Certified Art Therapists (BC) have achieved the highest recognition in their field by passing a Board Certified Exam. Skilled in the application of a variety of art modalities (drawing, painting, clay, and other mediums), Art Therapists use art to treat, assess, and conduct research, as well as provide consultation to allied professionals. Art Therapists the creative process to help the client identify issues, create goals to address their concerns, and develop objectives with the clients to meet their goals. The use of art materials allows the client to explore issues in a safe and productive manner and allows for the client to sublimate unhealthy emotions into the creative process.

(American Art Therapy Association)

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a human service profession which utilizes art media, images, the creative art process and patient/client responses to the created art productions as reflections of an individual's development, abilities, personality, interests, concerns, and conflicts. Art therapy practice is based on knowledge of human developmental and psychological theories which are implemented in the full spectrum of models of assessment and treatment including educational, psychodynamic, cognitive, transpersonal, and other therapeutic means of reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, developing social skills, managing behavior, solving problems, reducing anxiety, aiding reality orientation, and increasing self-esteem.

Art therapy is an effective treatment for the developmentally, medically, educationally, socially or psychologically impaired; and is practiced in mental health, rehabilitation, medical, educational, and forensic institutions. Populations of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds are served by art therapists in individual, couples, family, and group therapy formats.

Where Do Art Therapists Work?

Art Therapists work in private offices, art rooms, or meeting rooms in facilities such as:

• hospitals--both medical and psychiatric

• out-patient facilities

• clinics

• residential treatment centers

• halfway houses

• shelters

• schools

• correctional facilities

• elder care facilities

• pain clinics

• universities

• art studios

Art therapist may work as part of a team which includes physicians, psychologists, nurses, rehabilitation counselors, social workers, and teachers. Together, they determine and implement a client's therapeutic, school, or mental health program. Art therapists also work as primary therapists in private practice.

How do I choose an Art Therapist?

Each Art Therapist works differently. Some may specialize in a specific area of interest or with a specific population group. Because Art Therapists theoretical background differ, some may focus on assessment and diagnosis, some may uses Freudian theory, or Cognitive Behavior approaches, or Jungian theory, etc. Some may focus on the art making process rather than the finished product. When you are choosing an Art Therapist you need to ask questions and state what your specific needs are. This will help you clarify if the Art Therapist is right for you.


Art therapy is an effective therapeutic modality when used with groups. Groups should be identified by a common therapeutic goal or specific client population. Art Therapists work with diverse populations since the art materials can be adapted to meet the client’s needs. Art therapists work with children, adolescents, and adults and provide services to individuals, couples, families, groups, and communities. They often work as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; art studios; and independent practices.

A Creative Coaching Tool to Keep You on Track!

Need some help staying accountable for a decision you made? Want to start a new positive habit? This very simple online tool is like having your own personal accountability coach. It was inspired by something Jerry Seinfeld said, 'Don't Break the Chain' .
Here's how it works:
Pick a goal. For example, 'Do something creative every day.' 'Exercise for 25 minutes first thing in the morning.'
Mark off the days on which you achieved the goal.
Don't break the chain.

Use the increasingly long chain of marked off days as a motivator to continue creating your new habit. Go here to try it for yourself

Fun and simple, now that is Superfabulicious!

Remember: every paint stroke takes you one step
closer to creating your dreams!