The Value of Artistic Expression in Counseling

"Through artistic expression the client is given the opportunity to understand more fully who he/she is at that particular moment in that particular set of confusing circumstances."
—Suzanne Darley and Wende Heath

(Part 1 of a 3 part series)

Glue, stencils, scrapbook paper, and watercolor paints sit on the table as an invitation to play, create, and explore. You might expect that the table is set for a child to engage in laughter and fun as their imagination is encouraged to run free. But in fact, the setting is a counselor’s office and her client’s assignment, during their time together, is to create a sailboat.

In an unconventional way, the client (through the use of paint, constructing shapes, paper cutting, and gluing) begins to experience a meditative state that allows her to bridge the gap between her anxiety and her ability to make connections—connections that help bring about change in her life. The process is a subtle one. And many times, a client may be hesitant to try, bringing with her feelings of inadequacy from childhood about what the artwork should look like. 

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