A typical art therapy session or group contains three parts: a beginning, middle, and an end. While expressing ourselves and opening up emotionally can feel liberating and give us material to enact positive changes in our lives, coming back into ourselves and closing down properly after a session has ended is equally important. We want to end a session feeling secure and grounded and ready to re-join our regular lives. We don’t want to feel out of control, scared, or un-safe.
In the beginning, we start with a check-in or introduction. You are invited to say a few words about how you are feeling, or where you are at currently. Sometimes you are invited to use a metaphor to describe how you are doing. For example: “If you were an animal today, what sort of animal would you be?” This is good practice for getting into a creative mindset for art making.
The middle of the session focuses on art making. Some sessions you might engage in free art making. This is where you use whatever materials inspire you to make whatever you like. Other sessions you may be given a directive by the art therapist. It depends on the therapeutic goals of the sessions. After you have finished creating your art, you will engage in a discussion with the art therapist. You will talk about the art making process. You can talk about how the experience was for you, and you can talk about thoughts and feelings that arose for you. You will also talk to your art therapist about the piece of art that you made. The art therapist will help you discover your own personal symbolism and meaning in your work and how it relates to your personal story or current situation. This is called “processing” your art.
At the end of the session the art therapist will support you to gently switch gears to prepare you to move back into your regular day. To end the session, the art therapist will check in with you again. You might perform a grounding exercise if needed. You will end the session with a closing ritual. Some people like to design their own closing ritual. It may be something like blowing out a candle, taking a moment to do a few deep breaths, or setting a positive intention for yourself.