South Central WI Archive
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2010
Written by 

Healing through art

Art is your story and it is a unique expression of who you are. I have been using art in my therapy practice since the beginning for this reason. Art provides a structure, a method and a place for change to occur for all ages. Children enjoy drawing and coloring and making their own art. It’s very natural for them to express themselves in this manner. Art is a child’s natural method of learning, developing and expressing their feelings. Art offers us the opportunity to use the power of our own natural creativity as a way to heal and grow. But it seems that we lose this interest as we become adults. Could this be the reason for the sudden interest and availability of adult coloring books and adult paint nights?

The expression, “One picture is worth a thousand words,” was first used by Fred R. Barnard in Printer’s Ink magazine in 1927. When he wrote it, Mr. Barnard was afraid people wouldn’t take him seriously, so he falsely attributed its origin to a Chinese proverb. But what Mr. Barnard didn’t know was that 54 years later, split-brain research would prove him to be right. A picture is composed of imagery and that is a function of the right side of the brain, which is the body-mind’s internal, subconscious language.

The brain

There are two sides of the brain and each process information differently. The left side of the brain processes information in a linear and orderly fashion, and it is where the language center resides, which gives us our verbal communication in words. This left side is not the experience but the interpretation of the experience. Thus, the left side uses our beliefs to analyze, evaluate and judge the experience. It tells us what we think we feel, which may not be what is actually felt.

Unlike the left, the right side of the brain is the imagistic side that does not analyze or judge the experience. It is just the observer and records the experience. Therefore, there is a difference between what our words and what our images tell us. The right side of the brain processes visual-spatial information and is the intuitive, emotional and spiritual side. So it is through art and the use of images that the subconscious (the inner thoughts) can be easily accessed. Art helps one to externalize their issues so that they can approach it more objectively. Art is used in healing and therapy as communication to assist one in uncovering blocks, patterns and cycles of behavior that keep one stuck.

An example: “I am wondering if there is anything this art can tell us about your issue that has not been said in words?” Having an individual create an image of their struggle or challenge and asking them to choose colors, lines and forms that best express and represent their struggle or challenge. It is the metaphors and analogies that assist in uncovering themes such as polarized/dualistic thinking, care giving identities, inability to ask for help, poor boundaries and limits, protection of self, feelings of being unloved, fear of abandonment, and issues stemming from childhood arise.

Art is useful in:

  • Reacquainting you with feelings
  • Expressing and releasing feelings
  • Reducing stress
  • Connecting with your positive qualities, resiliencies and strengths
  • Discovering your own problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • Connecting spiritually
  • Acceptance and forgiveness of self and others

Art enables us to go more deeply into our own process and thus facilitates emotional healing. When we are able to do we learn from the experience and are active in our own healing process. Art can facilitate us to discover our own solutions that facilitate change, which greatly empowers us. Since art can accelerate the access to the emotional side and the subconscious it can then shorten our healing process and deliver more lasting results.

Some helpful guides to consider when starting to embark on your healing journey through art are: “Drawing from the Heart” by Barbara Ganim; “Visual Journaling, Going Deeper than Words” by Barbara Ganim and Susan Fox. And it might just be time to pick up that coloring book and make that time for a paint night.

As always, if you find that your issues and problems continue to surface and not resolve, then it may be time to consult with a professional.

Jennifer M. Warner, MSE, LPC & Holistic Psychotherapist

Jennifer M. Warner, MSE, LPC, is a Holistic Psychotherapist, Avatar Master, and Reiki practitioner who uses holistic and experiential therapies to empower individuals, couples, and families to heal and transform their lives, so each of them is able to live to their fullest potential. You can reach her at 608-251-6590; for more information, visit her website at

Subscribe Today
Community Partners Directory
Find a Complimentary Copy
Community Calendar