Friday, December 7, 2012

Making Whole: Healing Through Art: Guided Imagery Tortoise Shell

by Diane Steinbach

Making Whole is a bi-monthly art therapy column focused on art to heal. 

Guided imagery is a tool used by therapists and people in many professions. It is a system of visualization as a way to relax and move into a state of calm and sometimes a meditative state. Sometimes it is used as a tool to help people visualize things they fear, and to work through those fears in a guided imagery before facing the fear itself in reality.  The skill of the therapist or leader of the imaginary journey will determine how intensely the client in involved in their "fantasy."

As a tool for healing, it allows the artist to start in a restful, relaxed state of mind, without fear, and to approach an art process openly and honestly.  The following process is found in my book Art as Therapy: Inspiration, Innovation and Ideas.

In this case, I use the term "guided imagery" in a much looser fashion.  For you to complete this process on your own, I would want you to simply gather your art tools, crayons, markers, or paints and paper, and get yourself into a relaxed state of mind first before you read the following guided drawing assignment.

  • So, take a deep breath, and relax.... close your eyes and find a quiet space before you begin the rest of this process. 

Think about a tortoise shell. A tortoise shell reflects all the beauty in nature, as well as an image of the life of the soul beneath it. If you had a shell, what would it look like?

Draw your shell.

Processing notes (read when you are done with the exercise.)

If your shell is flimsy and full of holes, you feel insecure, damaged, wounded. Why? What can you do to strengthen your shell? Make it harder? Over the next days, work on your shell and fortify it. Invite your friends, if you wish, to help you make it stronger.

If you shell is vibrant, extravagant and bold, you are an individual person with a creative spirit...good for you!
The act of drawing and working on the shell can be meditative... lose yourself in the process and see what the colors and shapes tell you about yourself.

Diane Steinbach is an art therapist and the author of: Art As Therapy: Innovations, Inspiration and Ideas:, Art Activities for Groups: Providing Therapy, Fun and Function and A Practical Guide to Art Therapy Groups

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  1. This is a great post! I am going to have to try this!

  2. I'm really enjoying your posts. I always found your profession fascinating. Such a wonderful way to help people.


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