by Lauren Fallat, MA LPC ATR-BC
Directive in Art Therapy: Emotional Landscapes Exploration
A directive in art therapy can be understood as a structured and intentionally expressive activity that may be offered to an individual based on situational needs and potential benefits from engaging in the activity. A directive may utilize one or more processes including drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, collaging, dancing, role-playing or any other creative form of expression.
The Emotional Landscapes directive in art therapy invites the individual to embrace the use of symbolism as a therapeutic catalyst- using imagery found in our physical environments and nature. These images are intended to in turn depict or symbolize an internal experience of emotions. The directive encourages the individual to consider images and experiences of different physical landscapes and weather patterns and begin to make connections with how these landscapes and weather patterns may be similar to their experiences of emotions. Here is an example of how the directive might be presented and this can be altered based on the individual's level of development.
Directive: Think about the varied landscapes that you might find in nature-perhaps places that you have visited, seen in pictures or fantasized about (these landscapes can be real or of your own imagination). Consider what landscapes might best represent different emotions that you may be experiencing within the past day, week, month, year (pick a time frame that best encompasses what you need to express). Take your time in developing your own unique emotional landscape, incorporating similar or varied landforms, waterways, and formations to best depict your emotional state. This landscape can be created using drawing materials, paint, photographs, tissue paper, clay or any other textured material/fiber art media.
Consider different types of landscapes: desert, plain, rain forest, jungle, tundra, wetlands, woodlands, mountains, valleys, cliffs, coasts, oceanic, polar regions, tropical, prairie, farmlands, gardens, cityscapes, etc.
Consider weather patterns: stormy, overcast, sunny, cloudy, snowy, raining, hurricane, tornado, tsunami, blizzard, calm after a storm
Consider season: Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter
In an art therapy session, you or your child can work with the art therapist to develop your emotional landscape to best represent what you are experiencing internally. This is an effective way to focus conscious attention on natural elements that are often grounding to look at and to work within a creative way. Often directly focusing on emotions can feel vulnerable and off-putting for some individuals. This is a great way to gain insight into our emotional states and how we experience those emotional states currently. Art therapists are trained to observe a client's interactions with the art materials during the artmaking process as well as guide the individual towards gaining a deeper understanding into their artwork.
Journal Questions to Consider for your Emotional Landscape:
What elements were added or left out?
What emotions were depicted and what type of environment was created with the different landforms and elements?
What emotions were omitted?
What emotions in the landscape are close to each other? Which ones are further away?
Do any of the elements interact with each other and how?
If you could put yourself in the landscape, where would you be? How would it feel to be there, to explore the landscape on your own?
What would you add or change about the landscape?
You can use the above journal questions to engage in a reflective encounter with your artwork and generate deeper meaning from the image in front of you. Feel free to discuss these answers with your art therapist during or as a follow up to your session for ongoing exploration.