An Introduction to Doodle Therapy

Hi!  I’m Stacy Dinkel and I’ve been on board in some capacity at Chrysalis House, Inc. for twelve+ years.  Regardless of the role I’ve filled at this agency, I’ve always relied on my creativity to serve those I work with.  I’ve always been “artsy,” following in my own Mama’s footsteps and interjecting creativity into everything I do, (whether it be in art projects, social work OR parenting).  Although I have a Masters in Counseling – my undergraduate degree is actually in Art Therapy.

Enthusiastically, I’m introducing a new series on this blog, which we’ll be calling Doodle Therapy.  The Doodle Therapy posts will use creative activities as a means to connect with your own family in a variety of creative ways. I do not claim to be a registered Art Therapist, nor will we be assessing any artistic projects in a therapeutic way.  Yet, this series will be designed to encourage CHI families to get creative together, using art as a touchstone for conversation, growth and healing!!

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Art as “therapy” is a topic that always raises eyebrows and questions.  While art can absolutely be used to develop an understanding of the person who makes it — the process can be extremely useful in helping people grow, rehabilitate and heal too.  Despite what you believe – art therapies require no talent.  Drawing, painting, clay work, etc. are all methods of expression easily available to us all, regardless of age or artistic ability.  The purpose is not to create great “art” but to explore and express yourself! Art can be a profoundly relaxing activity; ultimately reducing stress and anxiety.  Another side benefit is that you can also simultaneously begin to resolve overwhelming emotions, crises and traumas.  Mindful questions and talks about what has been portrayed can be a super important part of the process and extremely useful to parents and children.

As a parent of an adopted child, art can be an excellent opener to talking about the hard stuff  (which can include past abuse, current anxiety, grief & loss, fears or even what the child can expect in the future).  Consider these Doodle Therapy exercises a “tool” you’ve added to your parenting toolbox! Don’t hesitate to bring topics to your CHI social worker or a therapist, if you feel they need further address.

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Today, let’s think about how available art is to your children – as you may want to consider making it a more prominent resource.  Do you have art supplies readily available to your kiddos?

Crayons, pencils, markers, scissors, chalks, paints, Play-Doh, etc. are all tools you can utilize in future exercises regardless of your child(ren)’s age.  Many parents have a fear of allowing children free reign to these items – and many choose to restrict them to sessions of well-supervised use.  Whatever the case – you know your child best and know whether they may initiate haircuts or create unwanted wall murals!  If you believe your child(ren) can handle free access to art supplies, you may be surprised at what they have the potential and freedom to create.

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Throughout this past weekend, I asked my kids to draw pictures of themselves and to help each other in the creative process.  My kids started out drawing one another and then swapped pieces back and forth until they decided they were complete.  My daughter has taken interest in caricatures, so we tried to take my son’s piece in that direction (I helped with the outline).  I left their artwork and and supplies on a table for the duration of the weekend. This strategy served several purposes:

  1. It was a 4 day weekend and art was a great time filler that they came back to repeatedly.  (Art can offset boredom!)
  2. It was a means of encouraging cooperative and positive interaction between the two siblings.    (Art can facilitate relationship building and bonding!)
  3. It prompted many discussions about what they like about themselves and each other – and how to depict that in picture form.  (Art can involve self esteem building!  You can create a better awareness of self and others!)
  4. The artistic experience simultaneously hones other skills too – fine motor skills, technical skills, creativity, an eye for composition, confidence to try new ideas, etc.  Through creating and reflecting on art processes, people can cope with symptoms, facilitate the ability to label and express emotions and enjoy the self affirming pleasures of being artful.

& finally… it offered me a project to post here as an introduction to this new series!  My kiddos are Kenzie (9) and Rylan (6), and they’ll be assisting me in demonstrating future Doodle Therapy projects.  My daughter’s nickname is “Doodle,” so she’s especially qualified for her new position.

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Please join in the fun!  Your first Doodle Therapy assignment is:

Have your child(ren) create a self-portrait, a portrait of a sibling ~ OR ~ Create a family portrait.  

This can be done individually or as a collaborative family process by working together as a team! To alleviate frustration and encourage relationship building – this is a great project for siblings/parents to support each other through any rough spots.

This project is about finding your way artistically and enjoying the experience.

Be well and Be creative!

~Stacy Dinkel, M.A.

P.S.  Because we’d like to promote your ability to play along, I have set up a Flickr (www.flickr.com) group specific to this series.  Please consider joining the group and submitting projects that your children have completed as result of our Doodle Therapy series.  This will be a closed group, available to ONLY those who are invited to participate.  To Join: Please send an email to myself at: stacy@chrysalishouse.com requesting to be “invited” to join this group. 

Please note:  If confidentiality is a prominent concern, please refrain from posting pictures which specifically include your child(ren).  In this event, you may simply submit a photo of only the art itself.  Agency use of your photos is not the focus of this group – we are merely wishing to encourage and join you in your creative journey as a family!  CHI will never use your images without first requesting permission to do so!

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