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Re-Creating One’s Narrative in Art Therapy: Altered Books Part 1

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Narrative art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that combines visual art with storytelling to explore personal narratives, emotions, and experiences. Through the use of various art techniques, materials, and creative processes, narrative art therapy encourages individuals to externalize and explore their inner worlds, gain insights, and promote healing. In this first blog post in a series of two, we will explore the value and benefits of engaging in narrative art therapy and then explore the powerful method of altered bookmaking.

Narrative therapy emphasizes the process of re-authoring one's own story, moving from a problem-saturated narrative to a more preferred or empowering narrative. Narrative therapy focuses on helping individuals construct alternative narratives or stories that empower them and align with their values, strengths, and aspirations. This process involves challenging and rewriting unhelpful or negative narratives, reframing problems as external and temporary, and identifying and amplifying preferred stories that highlight individuals' agency and resilience. This can promote a sense of empowerment, as individuals actively participate in reshaping their own narratives through their art.

Within narrative therapy, there is a key focus on deconstructing dominant narratives and examining the stories that have shaped and continue to shape who we are. Narrative therapy encourages individuals to critically examine the dominant narratives or stories they have internalized about themselves, their problems, and their identities. This involves exploring how societal, cultural, and personal beliefs and expectations shape the stories individuals tell themselves, and how these stories can be limiting or oppressive.

Both narrative therapy and art therapy incorporate creative expression as a means of exploring and communicating personal experiences and emotions. In narrative therapy, individuals may use verbal storytelling, journaling, or other forms of written expression to externalize and re-author their stories. In art therapy, individuals use various art materials and techniques, such as drawing, painting, or sculpting, to express themselves visually.

In addition, both narrative therapy and art therapy emphasize the importance of personal meaning-making. Narrative therapy encourages individuals to make sense of their experiences and construct their own narratives or stories that reflect their unique perspectives and values. Art therapy allows individuals to create visual representations of their inner world, which can help them explore and understand their emotions, memories, and beliefs in a visual and symbolic way.

To summarize, in narrative art therapy, the creation of art becomes a form of communication and self-expression, allowing individuals to tell their stories, express their emotions, and gain a deeper understanding of themselves. The art-making process serves as a tool for exploration, self-reflection, and meaning-making, helping individuals to make sense of their experiences and integrate them into their lives. In our next blog post we will go further to explore the method of altered bookmaking and the healing power of transforming one’s own narratives.

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