Art Therapy and Anger Management

Today was a day that I just felt like I could scream. Frustrated at every turn , feeling overwhelmed, out of control, and angry. Do you ever have those days?  For some people managing that emerging anger is “easy”, we’ve all probably talked to our clients about self regulation and relaxation. We’ve coached clients on deep breathing, counting, thought stopping, meditation etc. Of course those are all valid and useful techniques but sometimes it’s just not that “easy”. What about when someone is  about to erupt? When the deep breaths are keeping anger at bay but are not doing anything more. What about the underlying problems? And what about ART MAKING! ?

I discovered Art Therapy and ultimately became an Art Therapist because I experienced what art making could do and I wanted to learn more about what others experienced, what the Pioneers of art therapy were learning and teaching. For me painting is zen. The paintbrush is an extension of myself, as is the paint and my canvas of choice. Painting  is calming, soothing, and relaxing. The repetitive and sweeping motions of the brush along with the sound that the brush makes with the paint are comforting to my mind. But even better than the process, was being able to see and reflect on the underlying issues that were directly connected to my overwhelming emotions.

I think that Art Making for Anger Management should be an obvious choice with our clients. We know what the process can do, we have to trust it.  I suggest starting with something that feels easy and can provide instant gratification, rip paper. For those of you that have never tried this, the process can be very relieving, it kinesthetically expels anger and is safe for clients to do at home or even better…in public. After creating all that torn paper find something for your client to do with it. Make a collage, pulp the paper further and make new paper, begin a paper weaving project, or make a container with your client and decoupage with the torn pieces. There are endless possibilities…be creative. As you move forward with your clients don’t forget to take time to reflect on their work, maybe at the end of session or after a few sessions. Let them express what their work meant to them and how it felt to make art. Their self reflection is just as important as the art making itself.


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