An Example of Art Therapy with an Adult

Painting of an ExplosionClaire, a woman in her early thirties, had been married for a couple of years and had just finished her university education. She described herself as isolated and unhappy with her present relationships. Claire felt she was at a point in her life when needed some guidance and direction. She did not have any art experience. In her art she drew people as stick figures and used straightforward symbols. At the beginning she was not sure of herself, but this slowly changed.

As it turned out, Claire’s view of herself had a lot to do with her parents. So she was encouraged to explore her relationship with each of her parents in a series of images. In the first one, mother was fitting a dress on Claire as a child. She described her mother as unavailable and imposing. Claire was not accepted as who she really was and was forced to fit into an appearance that pleased her mother. As to her father, Claire could not remember how he was. In the picture he was very distant from her. She could only remember things that she did with him.

She then went on to create a third image based on her reaction to the images of her parents: a rectangle filled with red, yellow and green scribbles. She described this image as the container of her feelings. She felt red was her anger, green was her happy feelings, and yellow, her urge for adventure. The rectangle itself, she said, looked neat and clear-cut from the outside, which, she concluded, was similar to the way she presented herself in public. As she talked about the image she discovered that her anger, the red scribble, could take up a lot more room inside the box because that was her underlying feeling toward her parents. It’s not hard to see that these sessions had been extremely beneficial in Claire’s understanding of her family relationships.

This process helped Claire clarify her true feelings toward her parents. She discovered that her potential for growth and adventure was stifled by her deep sense of resentment and anger. She had never been accepted and validated by her parents, so she was not accepting of herself either. Art therapy helped her see her relationships and her self in a different light.

Why art?

Trauma takes the words away. To tell the story the child needs a different language.


Colours, shapes, and textures can speak volumes when
the child is unable to utter a single word.