All posts by Rachel B

About Rachel B

Board Certified Art Therapist, treating anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Getting Beyond Apathy – Why it Matters

At the beginning of my art therapy groups I often remind members that many people stop creating artwork between the ages of 10-12 and that for this reason it’s pretty normal for adults’ drawings to look like they were created by little kids. For those who can open up to this, there is often an element of relief as they allow themselves to create an image – even a scribble – that depicts a felt experience, especially when others can relate. It’s funny though isn’t it? That such important work is almost globally dismissed so early on in life. Self-expression takes back seat to more practical things like work and academics as we all do our best to conform to the high expectations of a money-driven society. Add to this the helplessness many people feel at the mercy of world leaders who seem to not have our best interests in mind, and it’s no wonder that a deep sense of apathy begins to set in. Why bother?

What I’ve noticed though, in my occupation – or maybe just from the wisdom acquired in old age 🙂 – is that the most significant work any of us do is the work that is so small that it’s hardly even noticeable. Everything that is so easily dismissed by so many almost across the board. Like expressing ourselves through child-like drawings. Or taking the time to figure out what our interests are – art or otherwise. Why should we bother to pay attention to the physical sensations that inform us how we’re feeling? Why is it important to recognize the strengths in ourselves as well as the strengths in those around us? It’s so easy to see all that is wrong with the world, because let’s face it, there’s a lot. But when you can begin to see some positives and the value in taking small steps, that’s when real change begins and you can only build up from there. When you start to let go of your defenses and honor your emotions, you can use them to guide you in your interests, in strengthening your relationships… you can allow anger to empower and mobilize you to respond to oppressive situations rather than turn them inward, which as we know would only contribute to depression. And when you begin to follow a healthy meal plan, you may have more energy and access to the emotions that can be used to guide you!

At times I think it’s been a mistake to encourage clients to begin this work by stating their interests…because even that may be too big of a step when stating interests makes the assumption that you even know this information about yourself. And time and again I hear women in recovery state that they don’t know who they would be without their disorder, that it’s become so entrenched in their identity.  Maybe the first step is really to bring some awareness to our defenses… especially to all that we dismiss. Maybe the small action you can take this week is to try catching yourself in dismissing mode. When you tell yourself that something doesn’t apply to you, that it’s stupid or has no value in moving forward in life – just catch yourself, maybe create some hatch marks to see how often you do this – and then pause for a second and ask yourself if it’s really true…what if it did apply to you, what if whatever it is that you’re dismissing could help you get ahead in some roundabout, convoluted way? What would be the pros and cons of allowing yourself to actually engage in whatever it is that you’re dismissing? What are the actual risks involved? Let’s start there and see where it takes you. Let me know how it goes!

Copyright 2018 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. 

The Part of You that Needs to be Cared For

I don’t think I need to outline for anyone all that a busy work, school, and/or family life entails. Time and again I am blown away by the accomplishments of the women I work with, on so many levels. And yet, the struggle still continues…to find time and balance…to find helpful support…to find a reason for self-care. It’s amazing to think how easy it is to put this off until later, when faced with so much to do. 

In some of my recent art therapy groups we explored these different aspects of ourselves; the manager side vs the part that needs to be cared for. And while it’s true that yes, accomplishments can make us feel valuable and confident, there remains the part that is quietly suffering behind the scenes, sometimes from neglect, sometimes from hopelessness or a desire to give up – especially when those whom we wish would support us are incapable of doing so. The good news is that even if we are lacking in this area there is still a solution, but as Albert Einstein said, “nothing happens until something moves” or in the words of a wise friend…”action alleviates anxiety.” And of course we know this means not doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results (thank you again Einstein for that one). What I mean is that it’s so important to thread self-care into our daily activity, our network, our foundation and to find the things that actually work for us and not against us. 

In any kind of recovery I believe that it’s a necessity to establish some sort of beginner mind – to ignite a curiosity about the world where exploration is filled with child-like joy and play in order to find these things that help us to feel cared for. Why not block out an hour or two in your schedule each week to do this? I get that time management might be one of those hindrances, but did you know that incorporating self-care routines on a regular basis can go a long way in reducing the fight / flight / freeze response? That means less anxiety, fewer panic attacks and  an increased ability to be present in work and relationships.

Try this: divide a piece of paper into 6 columns and label each with the following headers – nutritional, physical, mental, emotional, interpersonal and spiritual. Then while keeping in mind the image of yourself that remains uncared for, write down action steps you can try out in each category. For example, under nutritional you might want to outline a number of food options that you can take to work with you and plans to set aside time to actually eat. Or maybe even just identify a new recipe or two that you’d be willing to try at home.

Under physical, I know that at least some of you this means exercise, and sometimes in excess. And while it’s true that exercise can be one way to alleviate anxiety, we know that this can go overboard, tipping its way into unhealthy habits. Maybe just a nice 20 minute walk in the park will suffice. Physical activity doesn’t need to equate with beating yourself up. A massage is physical too – that doesn’t sound too bad does it?

A mental exercise can mean doing a crossword puzzle, or reading a book…or it might mean finding some ways to challenge those unhelpful thoughts in your head and put reframing into practice.

For emotional you get into my favorite category with using your creativity to express yourself in different ways – art of course, or you could also try dance, or writing, drama, music, you name it. Maybe even just start with identifying the emotion you see in others, or relating a song, a color or words to an emotion. I can’t even say enough here about how neglected this aspect of ourselves often gets – it’s quite possible that any attention here will be a boost to awareness. Try to identify how you might feel in your emotion in your body – that’s a big one.

The interpersonal category can help you take action around problem solving in your relationships. Is there someone you might want to reach out to but haven’t yet? Is there someone you can practice saying no to because it will benefit your well-being? Are there people with whom you’d feel comfortable and safe with sharing about your struggles? Can you identify different people to connect with different activities? Are there groups you might consider joining? A meetup?  

I know that the idea of spirituality at times might be a big turn off for some…but there’s almost always something to connect to no matter what your religious background. Nature, for one – maybe try sitting in a field on a sunny day and simply take in the beauty of your surroundings. Download a relaxation meditation and see what that’s like. Prayer in any form can be quite powerful. 

Try adding to this list as time goes on, I think you’ll find that it can grow quite extensive even if you only begin with just a few suggestions. Be sure not to censor yourself – go with intuition and see what comes up. Then just try one new thing each week and see what happens. I wish you all the best – let me know how it goes!

Copyright 2018 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. 

The Drive for Perfection

The olympics are coming to PyeongChang next month. Like much of the rest of the world, I expect that I’ll spend hours in front of the screen admiring the prowess of these hand-picked athletes and wonder as usual how they manage to accomplish so much. I always enjoy the backstory and learning about what drove them to such greatness to begin with…but eventually I begin to wonder about the other competitors who never quite make it into the limelight – the ones who are a fraction of a second off who aren’t worthy of a medal and all the attention and glory that comes with it. You have to wonder if it’s the result of a narcissistic society that drives people to such lengths, when there’s the very real possibility that they will never be one of the select few who receive such praise. And what’s more amazing is the number of us who hold ourselves to such high expectations in the everyday world, in everyday life.

You might be surprised to learn that the drive for perfection is often an attempt to ward off anxiety. It might seem unlikely, but actually it’s true. Think about it – if you do everything perfect then no one can touch you, right? You won’t be subject to things like criticism which for many of us is something of a source of shame and self-loathing. If you do happen to make it to the top of the pedestal, it’s true you may be “unscathed” but at the same time, it can be a pretty lonely place to be. We already know that true connection comes from a place of vulnerability. So why bother?

It might be worthwhile to pause and think about some of the costs of striving for perfection. Maybe notice that feeling of being kept on a tight rope – one wrong move and you fall – a pretty rigid place to be, no? This can lead to chronic exhaustion, stress and burnout. I think that the need for perfection keeps us from taking necessary risks and learning important lessons in life. And perhaps more importantly, it keeps us from seeing all of our accomplishments, all that we are actually doing right and all that is good in the world. I mean, how many babies would never learn to walk had they been too ashamed to fall? Perfectionism keeps you in a bubble and that can only be so comfortable for so long. On the other hand, think about all that you gain when you allow yourself to be perfectly imperfect. Freedom maybe? An ability to learn and grow stronger in some ways? The flexibility to fully engage and enjoy life without relying on external validation? What if the key to success isn’t about being hard on yourself and beating yourself up, but rather in learning to give yourself some slack?

The truth is, no one is above reproach. Just ask any celebrity. Time and again we see highly talented people rise to the height of stardom only to come crashing down at the hands of their critics. And there are always critics. Do you really want to let society have the last say in your value as a person? Unless you’re a brain surgeon, there probably isn’t such need for absolute precision. So the next time you get a A- or (gasp!) a B on an exam, rest assured that you’re in good company. Like with all those truly amazing athletes who make it to the olympics and don’t happen to win the medal. Maybe it’s just a hunch, but my guess is that the gold medal winners will be right there with you too – I’m pretty sure that all of them can find something else to be happy about. Maybe the secret is in knowing that you are lovable just as you are.

Speaking of critics…some wise women pointed me in the direction of this gem:

And subsequently, this one:

Copyright 2018 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. 

Coping Through the Holidays Tip #5: Honor Your Truth

For my final tip of this holiday season, I’m dedicating it to those of you who struggle to differentiate your desires, thoughts and opinions from that of those around you. This might be someone you love, distant acquaintances, or even the voices calling out to you from advertisements in magazines. I think that this time of year is especially rife with shoulds and shouldn’ts – about what you’re supposed to be doing with your life, what you should be feeling, who you should or shouldn’t be hanging out with, how you should look, what movies, books and music you should or shouldn’t be paying attention to. But I say it’s all bunk if you’re not following through with what actually resonates within you. The problem sometimes is that we get so used to denying our own feelings and opinions that we can lose sight of them altogether.

So this year, give yourself the gift of pausing – a moment to check within yourself, maybe deep, deep down, to see what’s really there – before answering yes to everything. Do you really want to go to that New Year’s Eve party that will likely end in drunken brawls, or would it be more fun to simply invite a few friends over and drink hot cocoa while playing cards in front of the fireplace as you watch the ball drop on tv? Or maybe you’re at the party and you happen to like the movie that everyone is bashing. What would happen if you shared your reasons why?

Don’t get me wrong, connection is great and I’m not suggesting that you go against the grain just for the sake of going against the grain. There will always be plenty of opportunity to agree with what everyone is saying and/or doing if that’s what you want to do. But just for a night, try experimenting and honor what is true for you just to see what happens. Just once. Or twice. Maybe you’ll feel just a little bit less anxious. Or maybe you’ll wake up feeling slightly less depressed the next day. I can’t promise anything, but I suspect that there’s a part of you that will be really thankful.

If you’re still feeling a little hesitant about all this, rest assured that while you’re taking that introspective pause, you can also do a bit of pros and cons work using a few simple goals to guide you: Will my response effect my health in some way? Will it keep me safe? Will my response improve my relationships somehow, or let people get to know me in a more authentic way? Feel free to add your own concerns here, but I strongly urge you to base your decisions on a path of health and wellness. Safety should come first of course, so even if you have to make a contrary decision based on keeping yourself safe, it’s still helpful for you to know your truth and it may help to guide you in taking action at other times down the road. There are always opportunities to make wise decisions – we may not get it right every time, but I believe that when you honor your truth, over time you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Here’s to seeing more of all that is you in 2018 – Happy New Year everyone!

Copyright 2017 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. 

Coping Through the Holidays Tip #4: Try Something New

I’ve been informed by some wise women out there that one of the most daunting things about the holidays is all the down time. A little ironic when you think about it, but it also makes perfect sense when you realize that down time is fertile ground for racing thoughts and negative self talk – and we all know how quickly this can translate into shutting down and isolating behaviors. The first step to change of course is awareness, so once you know this about yourself you can begin to make plans to take action.

If spending “quality” time with family means sitting around and watching tv together – or watching them watch tv – consider what it might feel like to invite them to play a board game together instead. Or to *gulp* go outside and take in the elements even if it’s freezing cold out. Honestly, as long as you’re not choosing something destructive (self, or otherwise), what you’re choosing to do different is less important than making the decision to do something different, in and of itself.

Trying something new can also mean trying something old – something you used to enjoy as a kid, like going sledding or catching snowflakes on your tongue. Even the act of opening your arms up to the world might be enough of an energetic shift to invite new thoughts and experiences. What’s it like to tap into that energy from a time when you were filled with curiosity, wanting to discover the world and learn what it was all about? Maybe take a walk down a different street in your neighborhood or stop into a shop that you’ve only passed by for the millionth time. One wise woman pointed out that even if you feel like you are all alone in the world, there is always the option to feel some connection to others simply by being in public places; reading a book or listening to music in a coffee shop still gives you the energy of being around others – and you never know, being around others might even open the door to new possibilities.

I think that one of the mistakes we make is the assumption that we already know all there is to know about the world, but of course the universe is not that simple. I truly believe that bringing flexibility in your approach to life is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. And maybe, just maybe, you can begin to create some space to challenge those mistaken beliefs and find there is another way to be in the world. Let me know how it goes – I would love to hear from you!

Copyright 2017 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. 

Coping Through the Holidays Tip #3: Express Your Needs

A wise woman recently pointed out to me that she has spent so much time practicing gratitude over the years that the act of asking for something felt completely selfish and vain. Can you believe it??? Of course it’s not all that surprising when so many of us have been raised with this sentiment: be kind and generous…care for other’s needs and dismiss our own. Maybe that’s not the overt message but it is all too often experienced implicitly by many. But in reality that’s not the way it works. Human beings by nature are in the business of needing, it’s an important aspect of being in a relationship. We give and we receive. It has to work both ways and it’s been that way since we were born – why stop now? I think we get into a lot of trouble when we deny our needs, so do yourself and your loved ones a favor and let them in on the secret about what makes you happy.

Back in 1995 Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages in which he identifies the different ways that we give to each other: words of affirmation; acts of service; receiving gifts; quality time; and physical touch. Chapman’s book also indicates how we often prefer some of these gifts when others would not care for them at all. It sort of makes you stop and think about the golden rule then, doesn’t it? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” really only works well if both of you happen to want the same thing. If what you’re doing unto others isn’t really wanted then it seems like something’s really missing doesn’t it? And here’s a big secret: as much as we all wish it to be true, our loved ones are definitely not mind readers. Let me say that again: Our loved ones are not mind readers. They can’t be expected to know what we want unless we clue them in. And sometimes hints are not enough, sometimes we just gotta spell it out. So do everyone a favor this holiday season and leave your wish list on the counter for someone special to see.

I assume that most of us can relate to the joy it brings when you give a gift to someone who is truly appreciative – when you get it right and they feel known, valued and loved. Why not give them the same kind of joy – to witness you getting a gift that helps you feel known, valued and loved? Think of all the great modeling you’ll be offering to others when they see that your needs are being met. And think of how much more capable you will be to give of yourself when coming from a place of resource and abundance rather than depletion? There are tons of benefits in doing this – I strongly urge you to give it a try.

Of course people can only give in the capacity from which they are able…so if you ask for a real-life Little Einstein’s Red Rocket Ship for the umpteenth time and your child still hasn’t provided, you can’t really hold it against her or him. On the other hand, they probably can make you a hand-made gift, say “I love you” on occasion, give hugs from time to time, help out around the house and play games or go for a walk with you. And you can rest assured that it’s ok to ask.

Copyright 2017 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. 

Coping Through the Holidays Tip #2: Get Personal

If you happen to find yourself feeling a little ambivalent about the holidays, it might be helpful to know you’re not alone. It’s not so uncommon for sadness to arise, especially if memories of the past come up when there may have been grief and loss involved…loss of loved ones, loss of relationships…even loss of time where things maybe haven’t turned out the way you would have liked them to. Maybe it’s an inability to be with those you love during a time you love. Or maybe you’re not even sure why you’re feeling down, it’s just something that’s there.

Impulsively you might want to push these feelings away, but in my experience that will often just exacerbate the discomfort and only prolong it. It might be a better idea to set aside a few hours to sit with these feelings and take some action around them. Try writing a letter to someone that will never get sent as a way to create some space for your feelings about the situation. Or maybe look through old photo albums to simply be with the memories that are there.

You can also use this time for a little self-care. There are some great DIY videos out there where you can make something nice for yourself – like bath bombs, body scrubs, lip balms, and aromatherapy – which also might spark some ideas for home-made, personal gifts that you can create to give to someone else you care about.

When done with intention, activities such as these can have a lot of therapeutic value. But if you find that it’s hard to pull away, or that reminiscing turns into ruminating which gets stuck, it’s a good sign that it’s time to reach out to someone for help – either a friendly support person or even a professional.

Holidays aren’t an all or nothing thing; it’s ok to make room for all the feelings that come up, despite external messages that it’s supposed to be all about happiness. And ironically it’s often when you move into the sadness and find ways to nurture yourself around it, is when you can find room for more joy.

Copyright 2017 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. 

Coping Through the Holidays Tip #1: Party Time!

Ever get s sense of dread as you approach the door to that holiday party where everyone’s expecting you to show up? Or maybe you hardly know anyone at all and you’re deciding to be adventurous by accepting an invitation from a new acquaintance. Either way, it makes perfect sense that anxiety would rear it’s head at a time when faced with walking into a room full of unknowns: any combination of moods, personalities, and opinions, along with a smorgasbord of libations and food might create an unpredictable environment that can quickly feel overwhelming and out of control. BUT, there are some things you can do to make the experience feel more grounded and manageable.

For one, remember to ask questions. While some of us might be terrible at small talk, the good news is that people generally like to talk about themselves. So if you get good at asking questions, you can keep the focus on them, and maybe even learn something interesting and new. Safe topics usually include plans for the holidays, books, movies and kids. Might be best to stay away from politics and religion unless you’re sure you’re in like-minded company.

While alcohol is often associated with loosening up, it might not be a good idea to let go of all your inhibitions, especially at work parties where you want to maintain a good impression. If you choose to drink, or feel pressured to do so, you can always alternate (or replace) cocktails with a glass of sparkling water or tonic garnished with lemon or lime. No one needs to know the difference and it might save you some grace. Just remember that carbonated beverages actually increase the rate of alcohol into the bloodstream so plain water might be a safer bet. And always be sure that you’ve got a safe ride home.

Also, don’t forget to set yourself up in a good way by eating balanced meals beforehand. Sometimes people fear that they will eat too much and choose to restrict earlier in the day if they know they will be around tempting foods. This is a bad idea as it only informs your body that it’s starving and will make it harder to know when to stop. Remember that there are always opportunities to meet your exchanges, even when faced with random snacks. Admittedly, nutrition is not my area of expertise but if you’re in the market for a dietitian, let me know as I can point you in the direction of some really great referrals.

Copyright 2017 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. 

Hurt and Humor in Art Making

Back when I was a teenager my younger sister and I used to get in the usual fights about what belonged to whom and the need to stay out of each other’s space. The arguments weren’t all that frequent or particularly bad in any way and having had similar interactions with older siblings it all seemed pretty much par for the course. One day however, probably after refusing to let her borrow a favorite sweater (which I believe she secretly did without my permission from time to time anyway), I happened to come across a caricature that she had created of me. I remember it taking a minute to register if it was actually me but inside the word bubble was something I’d said only maybe an hour before – it was definitely me. Now, you might think that I would have been offended and probably for the slightest moment I was. But it quickly came to me how brilliant this was. Not only could I see how my actions affected her – which in all likelihood created more empathy from me towards her in the long run – I could also see how she was able to process our argument and get some relief from a potentially no-win situation. I simply had to admire her for it. Plus I gained a new appreciation for her drawing skills despite the fact that she made me look less than pretty.

It would be several more years before I was introduced to the actual field of art therapy and while my studies have taken me in various directions, the powerful use of humor in my sister’s drawing never left me. After all, isn’t it true that some of the greatest comedy comes from the greatest despair? Think Ellen DeGeneres, Dave Chappelle and David Sedaris. I think that sometimes, maybe not always, but sometimes my sister’s caricature approach can still be really useful to explore, especially when you want to know more about what it is you’re struggling with in a relationship – or maybe any situation for that matter. Just be aware that there’s a fine line between using humor to access healthy relief and using it to take on a mean-spirited flavor all its own. Whatever comes up is natural of course, but you may want to be careful about who you show your pictures to (hint: an art therapist can help you process whatever comes up). While the comedians who rise to fame seem able to connect with others on their points of pain and relief, I’m pretty sure the mean-spirited ones don’t last quite as long. But the most important part is the ability to connect with how you’re feeling and find opportunities to create growth and change – which is pretty much what art therapy is always about. And while creating artwork on your own is not art therapy per se, you might still find some therapeutic value in it, even if you’re just doodling in the margins of your journal. And if caricatures aren’t your thing – you can always turn them into monsters! Check out this great tutorial from Lynda Barry – an inspiring art professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. All it takes is a shape and a squiggle and a little uncensored imagination. OR…you can turn everyone into South Park avatars (see above for how my daughter depicted me as an angry mom – it’s ok, I asked her to – she calls it Momster!)  And if you do happen to offend someone accidentally, give me a call, I can help you there too 😉

Copyright 2017 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders. 

Self-Help Art and Mindfulness

It’s a bit ironic that as a therapist it’s one of my jobs to address avoidance, especially when I realize that I’ve been engaging in a little avoidance of my own. For a while now I’ve been recognizing that as an art therapist, it’s a little surprising so many of my posts are not directly related to art. Pretty much all of them address therapy in some way, but art is my specialty and I can tend to stumble over writing about it sometimes. What I really want to get across is how passionate I am about it, and I feel like I’ve been lacking in this area…and I know that in part this is because art can be really powerful. I’ve seen the wisest of people come undone after putting feelings on paper and I don’t ever want to intentionally point someone in the direction of doing that while all alone. But at the same time, I see so much value in creating art at home. An introvert myself (actually I prefer to think of myself as an extroverted introvert 🙂 ), art is one of my all time favorite pastimes. I’ve even had moments of near enlightenment where time slips away and you’re so immersed in what you’re doing that it doesn’t really hit you until you step back to see the masterpiece (albeit, self-proclaimed masterpiece 😉 ). Yes, doing art on your own is awesome. But…this is not art therapy. And while there are any number of ways you can do art that may be therapeutic, still, you need to know it’s not the same. Just as any self-help book is not the same as meeting live-in-person with an actual therapist – there’s really no comparison. With no one there, who’s gonna help if you start to go down the rabbit hole? So be careful what you choose to venture into. So there’s my disclaimer; please heed my advice and be careful.

Ok, so that being said, I do think there are plenty of innocuous art tasks that you can – and maybe even should be doing at home. Today, let’s start with a little mindfulness. Try this: find a nice, quiet corner in a room preferably near a window for the natural light. Gather together some drawing paper and a selection of art materials such as ones that I like to call the basics: graphite pencil, color pencils, markers, crayons, oil pastels and chalk pastels. You might notice that these range from very structured to somewhat unstructured materials, the latter of which start to get a little messy when you work with them (chalk pastels can get very dusty, if you have breathing issues such as asthma, it may be in your best interest to wear a mask for protection). Start by drawing six circles on a piece of paper (one for each medium) maybe about 2” in diameter each. Next, take your time to fill in each circle, just by shading, with each of the materials. What’s it like to add pressure or go light? To draw with the tip or rub using the side? What’s it like to try erasing a portion of what you created? Can you? What’s it like to place two colors together – can they be blended with your finger, paper towel or piece of cloth? Pay attention to your body. Do you have an aversion to working with a certain medium? Or maybe one you like, or simply feel neutral about? What’s it like to get your hands dirty? And what are the thoughts running through your head? Judgment thoughts? Comparison thoughts? Worrying thoughts? How much are you able to let go of these in the moment, and simply allow yourself to be with what is? Once you’re done with this task, look at the page, and notice if there is anything you’re drawn to, or might like to try over again. Try drawing the circles again on another piece of paper and play with different techniques like hatching, scumbling and dusting.  Even with these few art materials, the options can feel endless. Next, draw the circles again and try to mimic a favorite artist. Can you recreate pointillism like Seurat using color pencils, markers or pastels? Maybe try to achieve the thick markings like those of Van Gogh using oil pastels. Or what about chalk pastels for a Rothko or mixed media for De Kooning? I recognize that I’m leading you to a lot of painters here, and you’re not working with paints, I get it. I’m just trying to get you to play – it’s all about beginner’s mind. My point is this…practice dropping the negative self-talk for a minute and allow yourself to be curious, allow yourself to be like a child again. It can be pretty awesome. When you’re finished, check in with yourself one last time – maybe there’s something you want to take to your next therapy session – bring it!

Copyright 2017 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders.