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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Schwartz

Making Art at Home: Playing from the Inside-Out

When we make art in a therapeutic way, we allow ourselves time to look at and sort through memories, thoughts, ideas and perceptions. We come across lessons we learned when we were younger that we may no longer need. We may think about the identity we once created that is ready to shift. We also have the opportunity to “delete” some of the useless and irrelevant information we constantly absorb from social media. Therapeutic art making is a way we can take a break from the onslaught of new information and spend some time prioritizing our information from the inside-out.

You can engage in therapeutic art making at home. Art Therapy, like all forms of psychotherapy, can only be conducted in the presence of a qualified professional. I often encourage clients to create art prior to having a session so we can spend more time discussing their process and looking at their art. This requires creating a therapeutic art making space and finding flow at home.

Create a Physical Space

1. Find a place where you have room to scatter materials and let your mind wander.

2. Turn off your phone, your wi-fi, and make sure you are not interrupted.

3. Lay out some materials. I suggest using three different materials like chalks, plasticine, collage, crayons, felts, oil pastels, clay, watercolor paints or pens. It helps if you can move from a 3D form, to images and then to words.

4. A journal or piece of paper to end with a poem or some words about your process and your product.

Move into Potential Space

You want to engage with the materials in a playful and curious manner. You want to explore without any real consequence or concern that your finished product will “turn out” a certain way. You want to enter into a potential psychological space. A potential space*is a state of mind that moves back and forth between fantasy and reality, me and not-me, symbol and symbolized. You will want to enter into a mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task. This is often referred to as creative flow. The term was coined and popularized by researcher & psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his 1990 book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Csikszentmihalyi describes 7 characteristics of Flow:

-Complete involvement in the task, focus & concentration

-A sense of ecstasy & being outside of everyday reality

-Inner clarity and knowing what needs to be done and how to achieve it

-Knowledge that the activity is actually doable and that you have the adequate skills

-A sense of serenity, being without worry of yourself and growing beyond your ego

-Timelessness, where hours pass as if they were minutes

-Intrinsic motivation, where the activity becomes its own reward


When you are finished you can write in your journal about your process and product.

The following questions can help guide you:

1. What is your process like? what came up for you?

2. What was your first reaction to this artwork? Why do you think you had the reaction?

3. Does your opinion about the artwork change the longer you look at it? Why?

4. Describe the lines in this artwork – how do they make you feel?

5. Describe the colors in the artwork- what emotions do you associate with the colors?

6. Which area of the artwork are you drawn to?

7. How did the artist use balance?

8. How would you describe this artwork to someone who has never seen it?

9. What do you not like about this artwork?

10. What is missing from this artwork?

For more information on potential space and the work of DW Winnicott go to: A Collective Response to Winnicott (

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