Art Therapy With Children
Visioning Your Practice: An Activity

By Duanita G. Eleniak, MSW RCSW ATR BCATR RCAT

Many times in supervision it becomes clear that there is a need for art therapists to get clear on exactly what you want in your practice.

Here is an activity you can do as an art therapist in order to walk your talk and work with art materials to assist you in the creation of your vision of your practice.

This art activity is based on the book called Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams by Lucia Capacchione (Tarcher/Putnam, 2000).

1. Make a Wish.
What do you want as an art therapist dealing with children? What is your true heart’s desire? It may be: “A super studio.” “To work in a hospital” “To work with certain issues or client populations” “To avoid work with children altogether…in which case focus on what you do want”. If this question does not work for you, ask yourself, “What do I want to see in my work as an art therapist with children one year from now?” or “What areas of my career as an art therapist need attention?” It might be advertising, or community development or acceptance of art therapy in your community. Some people like to do before and after collages, “How it looks now” and “How I’d like it to look.”

2. Search for Images and Words.
Gather pictures, captions, and phrases from magazines, newspapers, catalogs, snapshots, postcards, greeting cards, etc. Amass images which reflect your deepest wishes. Dream BIG.

3. Focus on the Vision.
Now sort through your mass of images and keep what fits with your theme or question and save all of the rest for a future collage/image.

4. Compose the Design
Arrange your images and words, your language of symbols and images on a piece of paper. The size is entirely up to you.

5. Explore and Find Order in Creative Chaos.
This is the phase just before you glue it down where your inner skeptic is likely to be the strongest. Have faith in your dream and courage to express it. Journal any critical inner voices.

6. Create The Collage.
Glue down your words and images. Notice how new connections are made and personal meaning is revealed.

7. Articulate the Vision.
Reflect upon your collage with words. This is an act of gaining deeper insight. Answer the following questions: What does it say? What surprises does it hold? What is the resistance, if any, to taking this Vision collage seriously and believing that it will come true? AVOID ASKING How am I going to make this dream happen? Instead, surrender to a higher order of creativity and allow the dream to materialize rather than to force it.

8. Reinforce the Dream.
You have made a visual affirmation which establishes and reinforces your desired goal or experience. Look at your image often. Post it where you can see it. Put it up in a place where others can see it and will ask you about it, forcing you to keep the images alive. 

9. Embrace the Reality.
Get some help. Recognize the embodiment of one’s desire when it comes along. Watch for any of your resistances that may appear when your dream appears in three dimensions. Catch yourself if you hear “Can I afford it? Do I have time for it? Does my life situation permit me to have this? Do I deserve it? Will it really happen? Will I get it and then lose it? Will I be disappointed in the long run?” Work with your journal, mentors, support systems, etc. who can encourage you. Reach out and help make your dreams come true.

10. Celebrate the Dream Come True
Announce the unveiling of your dream come true. Let all of us in the class know if anything happens…both during this class and many years from now. We all support you. Acknowledge yourself for a job well done. Express gratitude towards others who helped you. Acknowledge a higher power. Party!

If you know what you want to do, just go on ahead. My only caution is that you be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. For example, I know of one woman who asked for a husband. She found that she kept being attracted to and getting involved with married men…husbands!!! This visioning work is very powerful, particularly when done with children, for children still know the power of the heart felt wish.

Wishing is a process that children love. This is a useful exercise that can be helpful in your work with children in art therapy. Be sure to do it yourself several times. You will then have your own stories to tell children about the power of wishing with images.

Therapy Articles By Dr. Duanita

Animal Assisted Therapy
Child Art Therapy, Scribbles And Squiggles
Dancing For Wellness, Expressive Therapy
How Do I Talk To My Children About Going To A Counselor?
Therapy Guidelines, Handling Disclosures Of Child Sexual Abuse, British Columbia, Canada

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