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Guided Drawing®

“The body remembers what your mind forgets.”

- Martha Manning

Guided Drawing

Guided Drawing® is an embodied art therapy approach developed to assist trauma healing. This approach does not require talking about specific trauma. As the name suggests, Guided Drawing® encourages clients to listen to their inner guidance, to what the body needs to restore.

Painful, distressing or embarrassing memories are repressed and stored safely in the unconscious as images and in the body as body memory. This involuntary mechanism protects us against feelings and thoughts that are too difficult to cope with. Although we might be unaware of their existence, difficult thoughts and feelings influence our behaviour. The mind and body remember what we can't recall. Talking about a challenging or traumatising life experience can sometimes be difficult or even impossible.

During a Guided Drawing® session, clients are guided through a grounding, meditative practice first, then encouraged to use their internal bodily sensations, such as tightness, discomfort or distress, to guide them in creating a series of drawings using both hands simultaneously and with eyes closed. Inner sensations are translated into rhythmic and repetitive drawing movements using pastels and crayons. Using finger paints, clients are then guided to apply gentle, soothing movements according to their inner needs. In this way, physiological symptoms can be externalised, eased and released. Clients typically end a guided drawing session feeling lighter, happier, more relaxed, and relieved.

Do I have to draw with my eyes closed?

Having your eyes closed is preferable as it is easier to attune to your inner bodily sensations with your eyes closed. However, if you feel uncomfortable closing your eyes, you can keep them partially open. In Guided Drawing®, the focus is on the bodily sensations, not on the image. If you keep your eyes open, you might be inclined to focus on the image instead of focusing on the inner feelings. If you feel uncomfortable closing your eyes completely, please discuss this with your therapist before a Guided Drawing® session.

How do I know what to draw?

The idea of drawing your internal bodily sensation may seem odd at first. You might scan your body for any areas of discomfort, tension or stress. In whatever way makes sense to you, you will then create repetitive movements on the paper that represent the area of discomfort. There is no right or wrong way to do this; whatever comes to you is what your body needs to express. Your therapist may introduce shapes such as a line, circle or square to structure your experience safely.

Do I have to draw with both hands?

The answer is yes. Using both hands while drawing helps the right and left brain hemispheres connect and communicate. Your therapist will encourage you to draw with both hands in any way that resonates with your internal bodily experience. Your hands might draw together or in opposite directions, and you may have times when one hand takes a break and then responds again.

How does Guided Drawing® make me feel better?

After making lines and shapes to express your discomfort, your therapist will guide you to find a movement that your body needs to feel better. You might think about this movement as a self-massage, a movement that might ease the discomfort. If you struggle to find a massage-like movement, the therapist may offer some suggestions and invite you to test them on paper. After completing a series of drawings to map the distress and responding with a remedy, you will notice a reduction in discomfort, tension or stress. At the end of your guided drawing session, the therapist will assist you in processing what the experience was like for you and gain your insights.

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