Art Therapy for Stress: Harnessing Creativity Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. What is Art Therapy?
  2. How Does Art Therapy Combat Stress?
  3. Materials Required for Art Therapy
  4. Steps to Start Art Therapy at Home
  5. How to Use Art Therapy to Express Emotions
  6. How to Reflect on Your Artwork
  7. Why Art Therapy Matters

Life can be a whirlwind of tasks, deadlines, and stress. But what if I told you there's a way to channel all this into something beautiful and therapeutic? Enter the world of art therapy for stress relief, a practice that harnesses creativity for emotional well-being. This guide will take you on a journey through the colorful landscape of art therapy, a proven method for stress relief that uses the power of creativity to promote emotional well-being.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person's physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It's not just about creating pretty pictures — art therapy can be a vital tool for managing stress and improving emotional health. It's all about expressing yourself and finding peace in the process.

The Roots of Art Therapy

Art therapy has been around for quite some time. Its roots trace back to the mid-20th century when doctors noticed that individuals suffering from mental illness often expressed themselves in drawings and other artworks. They saw that art was a way for patients to release complex emotions, leading to the establishment of art therapy as a unique and effective therapeutic approach.

Art Therapy: More Than Meets The Eye

  • Self-discovery: Art therapy allows you to explore your feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, and foster self-awareness.
  • Personal fulfillment: The process of creating art can provide a sense of accomplishment and purpose, which contributes to improved self-esteem.
  • Emotional release: Art provides a safe outlet to express and let go of feelings that may be hard to verbalize.

Art Therapy and Stress Relief

Picture this: You've had a long, exhausting day. You sit down, take out your art supplies, and start to draw, paint, or sculpt. As you focus on your artwork, you find your worries starting to fade into the background. This is the beauty of art therapy for stress relief. It helps to distract the mind from stressors, promotes relaxation, and allows for the expression of emotions that might otherwise remain bottled up.

Now that we've dipped our toes into the vibrant world of art therapy, let's explore how this method combats stress and boosts emotional well-being. Stay tuned — the journey is only just beginning!

How Does Art Therapy Combat Stress?

There's a certain magic in creating art, a form of alchemy where stress and worry transform into something beautiful and expressive. Art therapy uses this transformative power to combat stress. But how exactly does it work? Read on to find out.

The Science Behind Art Therapy

Creating art engages our minds and bodies, drawing focus away from stress and allowing us to relax. It triggers the release of dopamine, a happy hormone that boosts our mood and lowers feelings of anxiety. It’s like giving your brain a well-deserved break—a mini vacation, if you will.

Art Therapy as a Form of Mindfulness

Art therapy is a form of mindfulness, a practice where we focus on the present moment without judgment. When you're creating art, you're fully absorbed in the process, the colors, the shapes—everything else fades into the background. This focus on the present moment can bring about a calming, meditative state, reducing stress and promoting emotional well-being.

Art Therapy as Emotional Expression

Art therapy provides a unique platform to express emotions that might be difficult to put into words. Ever felt a feeling you just couldn't name? Through art, you can give these emotions form and color, making them tangible and easier to understand. This emotional release can significantly reduce stress levels and improve overall emotional health.

So, whether you're sketching a quick doodle or painting a complex landscape, art therapy provides a valuable tool for stress relief. With every stroke of a brush or scribble of a pencil, you're taking a step towards harnessing creativity for emotional well-being. Ready to grab an easel and give it a try? Let's move on to what you'll need to get started!

Materials Required for Art Therapy

One of the great things about art therapy is that you don't need to be Michelangelo or Frida Kahlo to benefit from it. And you certainly don't need a studio full of expensive supplies. Here's a simple list of materials to kickstart your journey into art therapy for stress relief.

Basic Art Supplies

Start with the basics: paper and a pencil. That’s right, you don't need anything fancy to start sketching your feelings. As you become more comfortable, you can expand your toolkit. Consider adding colored pencils, markers, or watercolor paints to bring life and color to your creations. Remember, the goal here isn't to create a masterpiece—it's to express yourself and relieve stress.

A Comfortable Space

Choose a spot where you feel relaxed and at ease. This could be a quiet corner of your living room, your kitchen table, or even your backyard — anywhere you can create without interruption. Comfort is key in art therapy; it's all about creating a safe space for you to explore your emotions and creativity.

A Notebook or Journal

A notebook or journal can be a great addition to your art therapy toolkit. It can serve as a dedicated space for your artwork, making it easy to track your progress over time. Plus, it's a great way to reflect on your feelings and thoughts during each art session.

And that's it! You're ready to dive into the world of art therapy. Remember, the goal isn't to create the next Mona Lisa, but to find a creative outlet for your emotions, helping you to manage your stress better. So, grab your supplies and let's get started!

Steps to Start Art Therapy at Home

Now that you've gathered your materials, you're ready to start using art therapy for stress relief. But where to begin? Don't worry, it's simpler than you might think. Here are some easy steps to guide your creative journey.

Set Aside Time

First, decide on a time when you can devote your full attention to this activity. It could be early morning before the day starts, during lunch breaks, or in the evening when things wind down. The key is to ensure this time is non-negotiable and dedicated to your art therapy.

Create a Relaxing Atmosphere

Next, make sure your chosen space is ready. Put on some calming music, light a scented candle, or do whatever else helps you relax. This will help you transition into a more creative and expressive mindset, boosting the effectiveness of your art therapy for stress relief.

Let Your Creativity Flow

Once you're settled, it's time to let your creativity loose. There are no rules here. You can doodle, sketch, paint, or even sculpt. The idea is to express your feelings through art, not to create a masterpiece. So, don't censor yourself, and don't worry about being 'good' at art. Simply let your feelings guide your hand.

Keep it Regular

Try to make your art therapy sessions a regular part of your routine. Consistency is key when it comes to harnessing creativity for emotional well-being. Over time, you'll notice that you become better at expressing your emotions through art, and you'll find it easier to manage stress.

Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So, take that first step today, and start your journey towards better stress management with art therapy!

How to Use Art Therapy to Express Emotions

Art therapy for stress relief isn't just about creating art; it's about using art as a medium to express what's going on inside you. Let's dive into how you can use art to channel your emotions.

Start with a Warm-Up

Just as you wouldn't run a marathon without warming up, it's beneficial to start your art therapy session with a warm-up. This could be as simple as doodling on a scrap of paper or molding some clay aimlessly. It's about loosening up and preparing your mind for the creative effort ahead.

Choose Your Medium

Choose the medium that feels right for you in the moment. If you're feeling restless, you might find that physically engaging mediums like clay or finger painting help channel that energy. If you're feeling introspective, sketching or watercolor painting might be more fitting. Remember, there's no right or wrong choice here. It's all about what helps you express yourself best.

Express, Don't Impress

The goal of art therapy isn't to impress anyone with your artistic skills. So, let go of any expectations about what the final piece should look like. Instead, focus on expressing your feelings. Use colors, shapes, lines, or forms that represent your emotions. If you're feeling anxious, you might choose to use jagged lines or intense colors. If you're feeling calm, you might choose soft curves and pastel colors.

Listen to Your Inner Voice

While creating art, listen to your inner voice. If it's telling you to splash a bright red color in the middle of your painting, do it. If it's urging you to tear up your sketch and start anew, listen. This voice is your intuition, guiding you towards emotional expression and healing. Trust it.

Using art therapy to express emotions can be a liberating and cathartic experience. So, go ahead, pick up that paintbrush, and let your emotions flow through you, onto the canvas.

How to Reflect on Your Artwork

After pouring your emotions into your artwork, it's time to reflect on what you've created. This is a key part of art therapy for stress relief: harnessing creativity for emotional well-being. So, how do you reflect on your artwork? Let's break it down.

Take a Step Back

First, take a step back and look at your work from a distance. This physical distance often provides a fresh perspective, allowing you to see things that you might have missed when you were up close.

Observe Without Judgement

As you look at your artwork, try not to judge it. Remember, this isn't about creating a masterpiece. It's about expressing your emotions. So, focus on observing what you see rather than evaluating the artistic merit of your work.

Ask Yourself Some Questions

Next, ask yourself some questions about your artwork. What colors, shapes, or forms stand out to you? What feelings arise as you look at your piece? Do certain parts of your artwork remind you of anything or anyone? These questions can help uncover hidden emotions and thoughts.

Write About Your Observations

Finally, write about your observations and thoughts. This can help solidify your insights and provide a record of your art therapy journey. You can jot down whatever comes to mind, whether it's how you felt while creating the piece, what the artwork represents, or what you discovered during the reflection process.

Reflecting on your artwork is a powerful part of the art therapy process. It encourages self-awareness and promotes emotional well-being. So, give it a try. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Why Art Therapy Matters

Art therapy isn't just about painting pretty pictures. It's a powerful tool for stress relief, personal growth, and emotional well-being. But why does it matter so much?

Stress Relief

Art therapy for stress relief: harnessing creativity can be a great escape from the pressures of daily life. When you're focused on creating, you're not thinking about your to-do list, your worries, or your fears. You're in the moment, immersed in the process of creation. This can help relieve stress and promote relaxation.

Emotional Expression

Art therapy gives you a safe, non-judgmental space to express your emotions. Whether you're feeling happy, sad, angry, or confused, you can channel those feelings into your artwork. This can be particularly helpful if you find it hard to put your feelings into words.


As you create and reflect on your artwork, you might uncover new insights about yourself. You might uncover hidden feelings, discover new interests, or gain a deeper understanding of your experiences. This process of self-discovery can be incredibly empowering.

Healing and Growth

Finally, art therapy can promote healing and personal growth. By working through your emotions and experiences in a creative way, you can start to heal from past traumas and grow as a person. This can improve your overall emotional well-being and quality of life.

In short, art therapy matters because it offers a unique, creative way to explore your emotions, relieve stress, and improve your emotional well-being. So why not give it a go? You might be surprised by what you discover.

If you're interested in diving deeper into the world of art therapy for stress relief, don't miss the workshop 'From Scribbles to Art Therapy' by Shannon. This workshop will guide you through the transformative process of turning your scribbles into therapeutic art, helping you harness your creativity to reduce stress and improve your mental well-being.