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Healing through Artmaking: An Embodied Experience with Guided Drawing

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

When it comes to bilateral drawing, it's not about what you see so much as what you feel. Bilateral drawing is a type of drawing exercise that involves both hands working together. The key is to use both hands equally, so that each stroke is made with equal pressure and equal speed.

This simple art therapy technique involves drawing with both hands simultaneously, which can help you to access different parts of your brain and tap into your creative side. It can be done with any type of medium, and can be used to achieve a variety of goals. It can help individuals to explore their feelings, communicate difficult thoughts and emotions, and work through traumatic experiences.

Guided Drawing is a specific trauma informed and trademarked approach using bilateral drawing techniques for body mapping and was developed, taught and written about by Cornelia Elbrecht. According to the Guided Drawing website, the drawing approach encourages that “Clients draw rhythmically repeated scribbles to express inner tension, patterns of bracing and pain held in the body.”

In addition, applications of massage movements, typically along with finger paints, are incorporated and based on the participant’s inner needs, allowing for physiological feedback and emotional release. It is said to improve communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and can be used as a tool for therapy.

When you're feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed, bilateral drawing can be a great way to calm down and focus. The Guided Drawing approach encourages adults to draw with their eyes closed and to find direction not from cognitive, thinking processes, but sensory awareness and guidance from the physical body. The approach really asks the participant to scan areas of their body as they breathe and build a connection to the inner workings and movements occurring in this grounded state.

The goal of engaging in this type of sensorimotor practice is to promote nervous system self-regulation and embodied groundedness through art movements. The healing aspects of the approach focus less on the symbolism and representational aspects of what is created and more on the interplay of the rhythmic movements created and the body sensations felt. This process can help to promote unity and integration within the individual, and can be helpful in resolving conflicts or issues that may be preventing growth or healing.

There is a cathartic release that occurs and a sense of relief that can be achieved by engaging in these repetitive drawing movements that are meant to reflect the inner tensions, sensations and urges we might experience. This particular approach is said to be quite effective with individuals who have a history of complex trauma and experience strong physiological symptoms stemming from these traumas.

If you are interested in learning more about this type of art therapeutic approach to trauma work, please review Cornelia Elbrecht’s book :

Cornelia Elbrecht (2018), Healing Trauma with Guided Drawing. North Atlantic Books.

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