Illustrated Guide to Grounding Yourself during Traumatic Reactions

Heidi Hanson is the author of a top-rate blog site about recovery from trauma where she often focuses on the physiological aspects of trauma and trauma treatment.  Her site is called “The Art…

Source: Illustrated Guide to Grounding Yourself during Traumatic Reactions


The Healing Effects of Colour Therapy — Art Xtedia

Colours are everywhere, simply all around us, if you really pay attention to it. Even as you read this article you will notice the colour all around your home and even outdoor if you are on mobile. It is something that excites your senses consciously and sub-consciously. Colours have their origins and it is as […]

via The Healing Effects of Colour Therapy — Art Xtedia

Nonrepresentational Art Therapy: The Use of Textures

The power of textures in art!

Sepia Flora

Try to notice the textures around you. Be conscious of whether they make you feel something in particular.
  • Do you like soft and homey textures when you need comfort?
  • Do you look for heavy and rough textures when you look for safety or protection?
  • Hard and durable textures when you look for support?
  • Heavy and rich textures for coldness?
There are many textures which we don’t notice. Imagine what you can create when you get in contact with them, especially when you become aware and use them to express more than what is expected, to evoke feelings.
These are some textures that evoke emotions. Some that will help you express yourself better.
Textures can be represented through the use of brushes. You can use your own brushes, or you can create a new one that will adapt to the texture that you are looking for.
Here are some examples:
  • Bravery:…

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DIY Book of Textures (sensory book)

I stumbled upon this excellent DIY tutorial to create your own sensory book.

I can picture myself using this with my clients, particularly my clients on the autism spectrum. But, I also imagine using this with clients in toddlerhood or early childhood.

According to the tutorial, here’s what you will need to construct the sensory book:

  • CD sleeves
  • 1 inch album rings
  • reinforcement labels
  • hole punch
  • double-sided tape

Here are some different materials you can use for the various textures:

  • Silk fabric
  • Leather straps
  • Snakeskin scrapbook paper
  • Plastic
  • Foam sheets
  • Fur
  • Glittery foam sheets
  • Cardboard scrapbooking sheet


Here’s what it will look like!



I can’t wait to try this out with clients!

Art Therapy Directive: Torn Paper Art

Art Therapy Directive: Torn Paper Art

I had a client who was a perfectionist when it came to their art creation. Their perfectionism became a barrier to their creative process. I stumbled across this post while exploring Pinterest and was inspired to adapt the technique for my own intervention.

But first, let’s talk perfectionism and anxiety.

It’s not a bad thing to have high standards for ourselves. Striving for those goals we set for ourselves can demonstrate good work ethic or strong character. When do these goals and high standards become debilitating?

Perfectionism is the tendency to set standards that are so high that 1.) they can’t be met, or 2.) they are met with great difficulty. Perfectionists might believe that anything short of perfection is horrible–a character flaw, a failure, a disappointment. Making a mistake can lead to catastrophe.

Many folks know that making mistakes is a natural part of life and that this does not make them a failure or disappointment. Folks who are perfectionists tend to believe that making mistakes (not meeting their high expectations) means they are a failure or disappointment. Approaching life with this mindset can be scary and anxiety-inducing for a perfectionist. Over time, a perfectionist may start to believe they aren’t as capable as others.

This art activity involves loosening those high standards we set for ourselves and practicing self-compassion.

Therapy Type: Individual

Materials Needed:


  1. Provide the client with the selected coloring page. (You can provide many so they can choose the one they want.) Tell them they are going to color in the picture using only color construction paper. The catch? No scissors allowed. This means the client colors in the picture by tearing the construction paper.
  2. The client may become distressed (my client sure did!). Explore that distress. Ask them why they feel anxious about the activity. Their answer will likely include something along the lines of: “I can’t make it perfect without the scissors.” Encourage them to try practicing creating art without the ultimate goal of the “perfect picture.”
  3. Direct the client to pay attention to their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations during the creative process.
    • Thoughts: what specific phrases are they thinking about?
    • Feelings: what feelings are coming up for them?
    • Physical sensations: any somatic symptoms?
  4. Direct the client to create in silence.
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  5. Observe the client as they create.
    • Notice their body responses. Are they fidgeting, sweating, etc.?
    • Pay attention to their process. How is the client approaching tearing the paper? Does it seem difficult? Easy?
    • Notice their affect. What mood do they seem to be in? Does this change over time?
  6. When the client is finished creating, reflect on the process.
    • “What was it like for you to do this activity?”
    • “Any specific thoughts that came up?”
    • “What feelings came up for you during this activity?”
    • “Did you notice any physical sensations?”
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  7. Provide CBT psychoeducation to the client about perfectionism and its effects on daily life functioning. (taken from this source)
    • Perfectionistic feelings include anxiety, anger, depression, frustration.
    • Perfectionistic thinking
      • Black-and-white thinking
      • Catastrophic thinking
      • Probability estimation
      • Should statements
    • Perfectionistic behavior
      • procrastination, difficulty completing tasks, giving up easily
      • overly cautious in tasks
      • constantly trying to improve things by re-doing them
      • apologizing over small details
      • elaborate to-do lists
      • avoiding trying new things
  8. Begin to practice changing perfectionistic thinking through the self-compassion. Replacing self-critical thoughts with self-compassionate statements is an excellent tool for changing perfectionistic thinking.
    • Write down one thought the client reported from earlier that was self-critical.
      • e.g. “I felt like the picture wasn’t going to be good enough.”
    • Direct the client to change the thought to a more self-compassionate thought. This can be difficult for clients to do, so I usually ask them what they would say to a friend who said the self-critical thought.
      • e.g. “Nobody is perfect!” “All I can do is my best!”
  9. Close the session.


Optional: instead of using a coloring page template, the client can create a picture of their choice using only torn paper.


Happy creating!

*Images shown are not client work.


DIY Sensory Kit

DIY Sensory Kit

During my first term as an MSW student, one of my professors came to class with a blue lunchbox. He set the lunchbox in the middle of our class circle and told us we could use anything in it to help us focus, relax, and stay grounded. Upon opening the lunchbox, there wasn’t food–there were a variety of items in there! Mints, a variety of scented lotions, soft items, silly putty, pipe cleaners, and so on. This was my introduction to a sensory kit.

A sensory kit is a small bag or container filled with a variety of items that stimulate the senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). The items in the kit are tools to help a person practice mindfulness skills to stay in the present moment, stay grounded, relax, alleviate anxiety or stress, and decrease distraction.

We all concentrate, relax, learn, and find enjoyment in our own unique ways; this is why there are a variety of items included in the kit. The kit can be used during therapy to introduce new senses to the client and/or to assist with emotional regulation.

Making the Sensory Kit

Include items that stimulate the senses. Did I mention you can create your own sensory kit from items exclusively purchased at the Dollar Tree? Because that’s how I created my own kit. You can personalize your kit to your own style or a particular client’s needs.

Here are some ideas of items you can include in your own sensory kit for each of the senses:

  • Sight: Play-Dough (bright colors), glitter wand, sand timer, a picture
  • Touch: Stuffed animal, Play-Dough, slinky, hand puzzle, pipe cleaners, squishy ball, worry stone
  • Taste: Gum, mints (**Note: always check for food allergies.)
  • Smell: Vanilla-scented lotion, small lavender pouch (**Note: be aware if your client is sensitive to scents.)
  • Hear:  (This varies with the client and your course of treatment.) For example, if a client likes to listen to classical music when stressed, have that music on-hand, ready to utilize if needed.

I also include hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes…because germs are gross.

Tips for Using the Sensory Kit

  1. When introducing the sensory kit to clients…
    • Beginning of session or for the first time:
      • “We all learn and stay focused in different ways. Sometimes holding something in our hands to fidget with can help.”
      • “This bag has items you can use to help you focus.”
      • “This bag is here for you to use at any time during our session. It’s to help you focus or relax.”
      • “Sometimes we talk about difficult topics in here. This bag is here to help you relax.”
  2. A client utilizing the sensory kit can be an opportunity for you to…
    • Check in with the client’s present feelings
    • Introduce a coping skill and practice coping skills
    • Introduce ways to stay focused and practice keepng focus
    • Help the client discover new enjoyments and/or sensations
  3. Notice what’s happening when the client is using an item. This is an excellent clinical opportunity for you to observe the client’s behavior and self-soothing skills.
    • What was the topic of conversation right before the client chose an item?
    • Which item did the client choose?
    • If the client becomes distracted by an item, what was the conversation topic when they chose it? What did they say or not say?
    • Does the item seem to be helping the client maintain focus, relax, etc.? How do you know? Ask yourself…
      • What is the client’s affect?
      • Body language?
      • Tone of voice? Speech?
      • Facial expressions?
      • Thought process?


Here is a picture of my own sensory kit and the items in it:


Every item you see in the picture I purchased at the Dollar Tree!

Happy therapy!

DIY Travel Sand Tray

DIY Travel Sand Tray


One of my favorite expressive arts mediums is the sandtray.

I can’t say enough how much I love sand tray therapy.

  • It’s a sensory activity, meaning it engages our senses while we play.
  • It is a creative outlet for the inner workings of our mind.
  • It is a container for learning more about ourselves, our story, our feelings.
  • It is just downright magical to witness clients engage with the sandtray.

When I’m at the office, I have a large container filled with kinetic sand. (Kinetic sand is super cool. Definitely a must-have in my social work toolbox!) One problem though: most of the time I am in the field (school or community) for my social work. I obviously can’t bring this large container with me to schools or the community–but I really wanted to use this intervention with some of my field-based clients. This is why I created my own travel sandtray.

Plastic pencil case
Sand (There are so many different sand you can use! Click here to read about all the options!)
Items to accompany, such as rocks and mini figurines

**Alternatively, you can purchase this storage container from Target. You will see that it is two boxes in one–which could allow for easy storage of the sand and the rocks/mini figurines.

Creation Process
1.) Open your plastic pencil case. Pour sand into it. That’s it. Really.


You don’t want to overfill it. In mine, I filled it about half way up. Also, mine has play sand in it.

2.) Choose a small variety of rocks or mini figurines. I prefer to bring rocks I collected at my favorite beach in California.


When traveling, I keep the rocks separate with a ziploc baggie or fabric pencil case.

3.) You’re ready for sandplay interventions in the field!



Here are some helpful resources for sandplay therapy interventions that I use frequently: