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Cecelia Fioriello on Expressing Emotion Through Art

My name is Cecelia Fioriello and you might recognize me from the front desk, birthday parties, or Art Party! I am currently a graduate student at Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, getting my Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in Expressive Arts Therapy. For fun, I love to read, create lots of art, take pictures, go to the beach, sing, and spend time with my sisters! 

Why/how does art therapy help children express complicated emotions?

Art therapy is one of the modalities under the umbrella term Expressive Arts Therapy, which are forms of expressive, not just verbal, therapy that integrate arts based creating, imagination, and play as a way of making meaning of your own lived experiences. As children grow, learn, and experience they might not have the communication to understand what they are going through. Art can help children express complicated emotions because it is a world of open possibilities that can give shape or physical form to their feelings.

Should parents worry if themes of COVID 19 emerge in children's art?

No! Art making is a way for children (and adults) to get in touch with their inner self and emotions to explore what is going on for them. Right now, children might be exposed to a lot of uncertainty in their typical routines and might need a space to try to make sense of what is happening. Art can give children a space where they might feel comfortable to explore!

How do you talk to a child about their art? Should we talk about the scary things?

Talking to your child about their art can be helpful. You can ask your child about their art to let them tell you what they have created. You can ask them about their own art making process or what they were feeling when they were creating. It can be helpful for your child to talk about the scary things with someone they love and trust to know that everyone feels scared sometimes. It’s okay and talking about it together can help lessen those anxieties.

Does art therapy help adults?

Yes! Art therapy can be helpful for people of all ages. It can include all forms of art making from drawing, painting, clay, dance or movement, music making, poetry, and writing, etc. Creating art offers a chance to be present with yourself and get in touch with your body, which can often be something we forget to do as we go through our busy days. Art making encourages connection with yourself and the world around you.

How does art help you relax?

Art can help you relax because it is rooted in the principles of play, imagination, and curiosity. It can be a chance to physically release something you have been carrying emotionally, whether that be unconsciously or consciously. When you create, sometimes you might find yourself losing track of time or find yourself in the “flow” that temporarily quiets your thoughts and allows you to be present with yourself. It is a great way to get in touch and check in with yourself!

What is an activity families can do at home right now?

What you’ll need:

  • Something to create on (paper, cardboard, newspaper, paper plate or whatever else you have at home)
  • Something to create with (crayon, pencil, marker, colored pencil, pen, or paint)
  • Something that plays music

First you’ll want to set up your space on a flat surface. You will need to have something to create on like a piece of paper or recycled cardboard, or whatever else you can find big or small. Then you will have to choose 3 different colors to work with. This can be 3 different markers, crayons, pens, or colored pencils or one of each type! You can also use paint, just make sure you have a big space to work with that is okay with getting a little messy! Finally, you will need 3 different songs from different genres. For example, if one song you choose is “Here Comes the Sun,” choose two other songs that have a different feeling like “Let It Go” or “Baby Shark.” The song choices are up to you!

Now that you have everything you’ll need, you can start the activity with your piece of paper in front of you, one color in hand, and eyes closed! Take a deep breath, play the first song for about 30 seconds or 1 minute. While the song plays, let your hand be guided by the music to try to create one continuous line around your paper! This line can be however big, small, loopy, spiky, or zig zagged as you would like. The possibilities are endless.! If you end up off the page or you pick up the marker, that’s okay! Don’t worry, you can start a new line on the page. Take a deep breath and have fun with it! Try to keep your eyes closed the for the whole song clip and draw until the music stops. 

Once it is over, try to keep your eyes closed, grab your next color and put on the next song on! You can repeat this for the third song as well! 

Once you’re finished open your eyes and look at your amazing masterpiece! Notice what kinds of lines you drew for each song, how you felt during the song, or if there are lines that overlap or create new shapes on your page. Now you color in the shapes you have created, add to your drawing or switch with someone at home to fill in theirs and they can fill in yours or hang up your artwork in your house! 

You can repeat this activity with different songs, more than 3 songs, or different colors, no two pieces will be the same. Have fun!

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