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Strategies for Managing Self-Judgment and Shame During an Art Therapy Session

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Self-judgment and shame often show up during the creative process. They can prevent us from being authentic and expressive in our artwork, and from accessing our inner wisdom. We judge ourselves for not being creative enough, for not producing “perfect” artwork, or for being ashamed of what we have created. These emotions can be very disruptive and prevent us from fully engaging in the creative process.

Art therapy is a process that can be incredibly liberating and healing for people who are struggling with shame and self-judgment. It can provide a space for exploring these emotions and working through them in a safe and supportive environment. It is a form of psychotherapy that uses art to allow a person to express their thoughts and feelings in a way they may not be able to with words. Through art, people can explore and process emotions, gain insight into themselves and their relationships, and develop more effective ways of managing difficult emotions such as shame.

Art therapy is a powerful tool to help us better understand our emotions and experiences, but it can also be a difficult process. This is partly because creating art can be a very exposing experience. It can be difficult to share artwork with others, especially if it is not in line with our expectations of ourselves. It's important to recognize that self-judgment and shame can often arise during art therapy sessions, so it's crucial to have strategies for managing these feelings in order to make the most of your art therapy experience. In this article, we'll explore five strategies for letting go of self-judgment and managing shame during art therapy sessions.

These five strategies include: creating a safe space to express emotions, exploring the source of the shame, reframing negative thoughts, engaging in self-care activities, and seeking support from others. By utilizing these strategies, individuals can learn to let go of self-judgment and manage their shame so they can make the most out of their art therapy sessions.

1. Create a safe space to express emotions

This space should be free from judgment and criticism, and should allow for open communication and expression. When working with a professional art therapist, it can be important to share any thoughts or feelings that arise in session so that they can help you navigate these sensations and responses to the artmaking process.

2. Explore the source of the shame

The next step is to understand why these feelings show up in the first place. Shame often surfaces when we feel like we're not good enough or that we've done something wrong. Self-judgment is often born out of perfectionism and a need to be perfect.

There are a few things you can do to address these feelings when they show up during a session. First, try to compassionately understand what you're feeling. Recognize that the thoughts and feelings you're experiencing are normal and common.

Then, try to gently redirect your attention back to the artwork or the task at hand.

3. Reframe negative thoughts

Often, self-judgment and shame are the result of negative thoughts. When we have negative thoughts about ourselves, we feel ashamed and self-judgmental. One way to manage these thoughts is to reframe them in an art therapy session. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of our artwork, we can focus on the positive. For example, we might think to ourselves "I am brave enough to share this artwork with others" or "I am able to create interesting and creative artwork".

4. Engage in self-care activities

Engaging in self-care activities can help to restore balance and help to manage emotions. There are a variety of self-care activities that are helpful for managing emotions during art therapy sessions. Some examples include journaling, painting, and writing. By taking the time to journal, paint, or write, you can explore your thoughts and feelings, and gain insights into your experiences.

5. Seek support from others

For example, you can talk to a therapist or counselor about how you're feeling, or you can share your artwork with a friend or family member. It can also be helpful to seek support online. There are many online communities that are dedicated to art therapy, and they are a great place to find support and talk about your experiences.

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