Many of us are spending much more time at home due to the current COVID-19 crisis. While this is good in many ways, increased isolation can also sometimes lead to increased feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. One way to help cope with these feelings is with Do-It-Yourself (DIY) art therapy. While art therapy is traditionally practiced with an art-therapist, there are many techniques that you can implement at home and with family members while still enjoying the benefits art therapy has to offer.

First, practicing art therapy allows you to enter a state of mindfulness by letting the stresses and anxieties of daily life fall away as you focus on expressing yourself through art. Mindfulness practices are extremely beneficial because they lead to an increase in self-care and self-compassion. Increased self-compassion is associated with an increase in psychological well-being, as well as a decrease in depression and anxiety.

Second, art therapy heightens our ability to cope with our daily stresses and inner conflict by serving as a form of self-expression. By expressing your thoughts and feelings in the form of art, you can gain insight into your own emotional state, allowing for an increase in self-awareness and a deeper acceptance of things that may be out of your control.

Art therapy is easily and widely applicable because art is not held to rules or boundaries. This means that you have unlimited potential to express your thoughts and feelings. DIY art therapy can be practiced alone, or with a partner or family members.

DIY Art Therapy Techniques

1. Painting

Any type of paint can be used, such as watercolor, acrylic, or oil paints. While painting, you can focus on a guiding theme such as “paint something important to you”, or “paint a dream you had”. You may also choose to paint with a clear mind, and then self-evaluate the finished piece after.

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2. Squiggle-Drawing Game

The squiggle drawing game works best with a partner. One partner draws a squiggle on a piece of paper, and then the other partner draws a picture out of the squiggle while telling a story about what they are drawing. While the second partner is drawing, the first partner may ask questions about the drawing or story. After the drawing and story are complete, the partners switch so that each person gets a chance to participate in the different roles.

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3. Blob and Wet Paper Technique

This technique can be done with a partner or with a group, such as your family. Each person can work on their own art piece at the same time. You start out with a slightly wet piece of paper, and then you can add drops of color to it using a marker, ink, or paint. Next, crumple up the paper and then lay it flat again and continue to add drops of colors. You may also choose to glue on textural materials such as glitter, feathers, or more paper. Once everyone is finished, each person can take turns discussing what their piece of art means to them.

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These are just a few examples of the many DIY art therapy techniques you can use. Once you are comfortable, feel free to explore beyond these techniques!

Blog post by Logan Hedberg, Volunteer

Snyder, B.A. (1997). Expressive Art Therapy Techniques: Healing the Soul Through Creativity. Journal of Humanistic Education and Development, 36(2), 74-82.

Braus, M., & Morton, B. (2020). Art therapy in the time of COVID-19. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.