art as therapy to improve your life

Art as Therapy has been a part of my life since I was very little. Both my parents are artists and both “need” art to survive on a daily basis. My mom made money through Graphic Design but always had a half painted canvas in her studio; she said it was her only way to stay on track with herself.


My dad taught people to do art by teaching them to draw what they saw, it didn’t matter how they saw it as long as they were enjoying putting it down on paper. When I was little, I was given paper and pencils as soon as I said I was bored. My dad would give me an already sketched on paper and tell me to get creative.  I was always in my dad´s or mom´s studio, just being there, making art with them.




Related: Make art with kids, embrace the chaos


I grew up watching my dad and his wife help people rediscover their personality through Art. He made a living by teaching adults to release stress through Art, and then used his free time to teach children to express themselves though Art.


I did not fully delve into the whole Art as Therapy idea until I came to Asia and started spending 24 hours a day with my toddlers. I started homeschooling them and found that my first choice when doing any activity was to do something art oriented.


I also discovered that when I let the kids do art freely, they enjoy themselves much more. I mean freely in the sense that I let them make a mess; I embrace the mess as part of the process. And then, most often than not, the Art is destroyed and never makes it on the wall.


If I deem the piece to be something I would like to keep for them to have as a memory of the time we spent together that day, then I quickly put the Art up on the wall or put it away in a folder.




“According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), art therapy is the use of art creation as a form of psychotherapy for people experiencing trauma or illness, seeking personal development, or struggling to deal with the day-to-day act of living. Through the act of creating art and thinking about the process and medium, people are able to develop skills that increase cognitive ability, increase awareness of self and others, and help them cope with the distressing symptoms or limitations imposed by disability or disease. The primary purpose of art therapy is to help patients heal their mental and emotional wounds as much as they can.”


– Art Therapy Journal.








As long as there have been humans and fruits and berries to make paint with there has been art therapy through painting. Humans have always sought the release of thought and feeling by making art. At the beginning it was not called “Art Therapy”, it was just something humans did. Of course in modern times, we have studied Art and its reasons and purposes to now be able to use it as Therapy in a more conscious way.


Art Therapy has been known to help with Depression, Anxiety, PTSD and other mental illnesses that prevent humans from having a fulfilling life. Taking a brush with paint onto a canvas can release emotions that sometimes words and tears cannot.




Sometimes a person needs to meditate to be able to relax and face the day, mandalas are a great way to reach a meditative state; the concentration it offers is unique and up-lifting. When doing a mandala it is best to finish it and not leave it half done.




In my personal experience, when I do Art on a regular basis my mental state is safer than when I don´t. When my kids do Art they are happier and more content. And If I let them make the mess and then let them destroy it, they like it even better. As the kids get older the paint stays more on the paper and less on their bodies and floor and table but its best to let them learn that on their own terms, not be a clean freak over it. I like to teach them to take care of the materials and not throw them around. This also takes time and patience.




Whenever we move into a new house (we do this often) I cover one wall of the room chosen to be the art room, with white paper so that if inspiration hits, the materials are on hand. Some murals have turned out like amazing pieces of Art and some looked like a crazy color monster pooped on them. Either way they have been enjoyable and have created many happy and messy memories.






An interesting way to use Art as therapy is to paint with music and let the melodies inspire what is put down on the paper, the kids really enjoy this because they sometimes try and keep the rhythm with the brush and that´s just what needs to happen. Color usually goes flying everywhere but that also brings along laughter and giggles.


Like I mentioned earlier, if the kids need to relax, a mandala can be a good way to go. Print out or make a mandala with big empty sections and have them paint it in. Too much detail is confusing and stressful for small kids, but its great therapy for adults! A great variation for a mandala session is to first ask the kids to pick out the colors that make them feel good and only paint with those. Remember to teach them that the mandala is best to stop when finished. They will know, maybe they wanted to leave those spaces white. Don´t pressure them into a “perfect” product.




Whichever way you choose to do art with your kids, the best approach is a relaxed one. I try very hard to follow my own advice but sometimes fall into the “don’t paint the wall” or “don’t paint your sister´s hair” routine and ruin it for everybody. Art Therapy as a family can be very fulfilling if you take it in stride and let it flow. There is nothing worse than feeling stress while making art.





Art Therapy: Painting to Heal


100 Art Therapy Exercises
How Learning to Paint Benefits Children