Stardate: 4th day, 5th month, 2020
integrity playfulness appreciate beauty vitality power gentleness divine creation dancing musical majestic wisdom leadership loyalty generosity caring brave
As we enter into our third month social restrictions during the Covid19 pandemic, you may wonder, as I do, how exactly am I managing to get through this? A common question asked of clients in many different therapeutic settings is this: “What gets you through when times are tough?” What are the values or qualities you possess that come to the fore when you need them most? More often than not, we find it much easier to identify our weaknesses rather than recognizing our strengths. Part of the reason for this may be that historically the mental health profession focuses more on remediating deficits than on developing strengths.
In contrast, experts in the art therapy field have always known that focusing on strengths is a precursor for healing, Positive psychologists, too, report that when clients are able to identify the qualities that have helped them surmount their challenges, they not only experience empowerment but also foster resilience for future adversity. (Peterson, Park & Seligman, 2006) The question remains, however; how do we mine for strengths when we as humans are more naturally attuned to our weaknesses—especially when our lives have changed so dramatically?
I believe that art therapists have a leg up responding to this question. The very nature of “artwork can showcase strengths in ways that verbal strategies alone cannot” (Chilton & Wilkinson, 2018, p. 109). There are many art therapy interventions and directives which naturally mine for strengths. One simple example to try is explained below:
Browse through some magazines or picture books and select an image which suggests strength to you. Spend a few minutes with the image. Ask yourself what qualities the image brings forward. Dialogue with it…give the image a name. Determine what it is that attracted you to the image. Then either attach it to a journal page or piece of paper and write beside, on or below, 10 to 15 qualities of strength that this particular image evokes in you. You can take this a step farther and compose a little poem with your words or create another art piece using just one of the strength attributes. When reflecting, notice how many of these strengths you might recognize in yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised!