As one of the creative arts therapies, dramatherapy sometimes includes making art.

This might be:

  • As part of a warm up, perhaps sculpting clay to show how you feel.
  • Directly related to a drama exploration, such as making masks or costumes.
  • Reflective, such as using paints or pastels to process something which has just been explored

In dramatherapy, there is not a “true meaning” of an art piece; i.e. if you draw a spider, I am not going to refer to psychoanalytical theory on what drawing a spider tells me about your mental health or current thoughts. Rather, art is personal and the questions is what the spider means to you. So one person’s spider might mean they feel trapped and scared and another persons spider might mean they feel prepared and connected and another person’s spider might mean they feel silky and creative.

Sometimes art will be surreal or abstract rather than representational of something specific; in this case the meaning the artist gives is represented in the selection of colours and shapes. Perhaps the meaning will only be clear once the piece is finished. Or perhaps there is no meaning in the art itself and the process of art making allowed the artist to express their emotions in the moment.

When we make art in dramatherapy, it is more about the process than about the product. It is not about who is the best painter or sculptor. Equally we do not believe that anyone is “no good” at art or “can’t draw”. Sometimes you may be invited to engage with art in unusual ways – finger painting or sculpting with pipe cleaners and buttons; it isn’t about being good, it is about being free.

The art materials are an invitation to be creative, explorative and expressive. Your creations are for you, not for display or for evaluation, they speak into the moment of how you were feeling when you created it. Usually, what is created will be stored by the dramatherapist and returned to you at the end of the therapy journey, offering a way to reflect back over our time together. This is not part of your clinical file; it is owned by you not the therapist.

Sometimes we may also use other peoples art, perhaps postcards of famous paintings or clay scuptures as art can represent the way we feel.

The artwork on this page

The image above shows a Medieval man carving Pictish Symbols into a stone. These symbols are thought to be a simplistic early language system, it can be found in carvings across Scotland. The images I chose for this representation of art show a hero’s journey:

  • Crescent with V rod represents destiny and calling or higher power or ancestors.
  • Double disk with Z rod, this symbol guards the border between worlds, it is a threshold of change
  • Kelpies (water horses) represent transformation and change
  • The beast represents facing your inner demons
  • Mirror in border represents self awareness and knowledge (border could also be on the sides)

Although he is carving stone, I have added colour to bring out the design and artistry.

Although I have chosen to use symbols with a particular meaning in this image, the order and placement of those different elements is designed to illustrate the reflective process. Often the meaning of art might only be apparent to the creator and perhaps a few people with inside knowledge.