Art Therapy Prompts for Trauma: A Comprehensive Guide to Healing Through Creativity

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on June 20, 2023
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Art therapy has emerged as a powerful tool in helping individuals overcome trauma and its associated challenges for self-exploration.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the benefits of using art therapy for trauma, discuss various prompts and techniques, and provide resources to get art materials to help you on your healing journey of emotional well-being.

The Online Mental Health Reviews team is qualified to write about art therapy prompts for trauma, primarily because our team members have personally benefited from and experienced art therapy. We also have a thorough knowledge of the mental health field, stay current with industry trends, and have high research and writing standards.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses creative expression through various mediums like drawing, painting, or sculpting to process emotions, reduce stress, and promote personal growth.

It is particularly beneficial for those dealing with trauma, providing a safe and non-verbal outlet for expressing and processing difficult experiences.

Why Use Art Therapy for Trauma?

How art therapy is used to treat trauma

Trauma can manifest in many forms, often leading to emotional distress and mental health challenges. Art therapy offers a unique approach to addressing these issues by:

  1. Encouraging self-expression and emotional release.
  2. Providing a safe and non-judgmental space for exploration.
  3. Facilitating communication and connection with oneself and others.
  4. Enhancing self-awareness, self-love, and personal growth.

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Trauma Survivors

• Scientific research1 demonstrates that Art therapy provides a safe space for trauma survivors to express emotions and build coping skills.

• It offers a unique way to express complicated feelings, helping them gain insight into their thoughts and emotions.

• Art therapy helps build grounding and coping skills while allowing individuals to explore their identity in a safe environment.

• Creating visual representations of traumatic events gives visibility to suffering, providing an outlet for telling one’s story in a meaningful way.

Healing Through Creative Expression

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses creative expression to help individuals process and heal from trauma.

  • Art therapy exercises allow people to express their emotions in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
  • Art therapy prompts for trauma can be used to help patients face difficult emotions, decrease anxiety, improve social skills, build confidence, and become more mindful.
  • These prompts can include painting to music, creating scribbles or drawings, mapping galaxies, writing stream-of-consciousness style journal entries, retelling stories through art, or engaging in other creative activities.

By engaging in art therapy activities, individuals can find relief from the pain of trauma and begin to heal.

Childhood Trauma and the Use of Art Therapy

Art therapy provides a safe, non-judgmental environment for children who have experienced trauma to express their emotions and experiences.

• It encourages self-image-expression through visual media such as drawing, painting, sculpting, or collage.

• It helps build resilience and coping skills by allowing children to take risks without fear of failure or rejection.

• It enhances communication by providing an alternative way to express thoughts and feelings without verbal communication.

• It promotes healing by helping children creatively process difficult experiences.

Mindfulness and Art Therapy for PTSD Treatment

Mindfulness and art therapy are two powerful tools that, according to Healthline, can be used to help treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

  1. Mindfulness is being present in the moment, focusing on your breath, and observing your thoughts without judgment.
  2. Art therapy prompts can help individuals process traumatic memories, relieve stress, and reduce symptoms of trauma-related disorders.

By combining mindfulness with art therapy, individuals can gain insight into their emotions and experiences while developing coping strategies to manage their PTSD.

Veterans with PTSD and Art Therapy Intervention

Art therapy is an effective intervention for veterans with PTSD, according to the peer-reviewed Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health, providing benefits such as improved fine motor skills, increased cognitive functioning, stress management, substance abuse prevention, trauma processing, and positive coping mechanisms for transitioning from military to civilian life.

Art Therapy Prompts for Trauma

The following art therapy prompts are designed to help individuals cope with trauma in various situations. Each talk therapy prompt includes a step-by-step guide for beginners and additional resources for further exploration.

Art Therapy Near Me: Common Myths and Misunderstandings

Prompt 1: Visual Journaling

  1. Choose a blank journal or sketchbook as your canvas.
  2. Set aside time daily to draw, paint, or collage your thoughts and emotions.
  3. Reflect on your creations and note any recurring themes or patterns.

Prompt 2: Safe Space Collage

  1. Gather images from magazines, photographs, or printouts representing safety, comfort, and tranquility.
  2. Arrange the images on a large piece of paper or canvas, creating a collage representing your ideal safe space.
  3. Reflect on the elements contributing to your sense of safety and how to incorporate them into your daily life.

Prompt 3: Emotion Mapping

  1. Choose an emotion related to your trauma (e.g., anger, sadness, fear).
  2. Using colors, shapes, and lines, create an abstract representation of this emotion on paper or canvas.
  3. Reflect on the artwork, considering how it captures your emotional experience and what insights it offers.

5 Art Therapy Group Ideas

• Art therapy can be an effective way to help individuals process and cope with trauma; group activities are especially beneficial.

• Feeling Codes encourage participants to identify and create images that express their emotions via symbols or colors.

• Collage and Group Collage allow participants to visually represent their emotions or experiences associated with the trauma.

• Mask-Making enables participants to express themselves without feeling judged or exposed.

• Altered Photo activity provides a creative outlet for exploring their emotions while processing the trauma of a traumatic event.

• Wise Puppet encourages participants to explore different perspectives of the trauma in a secure environment.

5 Art Therapy Ideas for Adult Self-Esteem

Art therapy is a potent tool for adults to explore their self-esteem and build confidence. Here are five more art projects and therapy ideas that can help adults boost their self-esteem:

  1. Altered Book Making – Rewrite your story through words, imagery, and sculpture.
  2. Healthy Image Posters – Create a poster with positive affirmations and images representing who you are and what you want to be.
  3. Clay Modeling – Use clay to create something that reflects your feelings or thoughts about yourself.
  4. Painting – Express yourself through colors, shapes, and textures on canvas or paper.
  5. Vision Board – Create a board with images of things you want to achieve or become in the future to motivate yourself toward those goals.

5 Art Therapy Ideas for Adult Depression

• Adults living with depression can benefit from Art Therapy, a creative way to express and explore feelings

• Drawing or Painting Emotions helps focus on them without words

• Emotion Wheel visualizes different emotions and how they relate to each other

• Nature inspires creativity and provides a calming energy

• Art Journal documents progress throughout the journey

• Mandalas provide meditation and relaxation when drawn/colored

5 Art Therapy Ideas for Children

• Art therapy is an effective way to help children cope with their emotions.

• Create Mandalas – a form of art therapy that involves creating intricate designs using shapes, colors, and symbols to help children explore their emotions and gain insight into themselves.

• Picture Your Emotions – Ask the child to draw or paint a picture that reflects their emotional state and how they feel in the moment.

• Make Art from Nature – Using natural materials like leaves, rocks, twigs, and flowers art making is an excellent way for kids to create something meaningful while connecting with nature.

• Squeezy Oozy Painted Flower Pots – The activity involves painting flower pots with tempera paint and squeezing them until the paint oozes out of the holes.

• Self-Esteem Mirror – Ask the child to make a mirror out of paper or cardboard that reflects how they feel about themselves on the inside rather than how they look on the outside.

Expressive Art Therapy Interventions

Expressive Art Therapy Interventions are a form of emotive arts therapy that uses art to help individuals process and cope with traumatic experiences. It can help patients face emotions, decrease anxiety, improve social skills, build confidence, and be more mindful.

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Drawing Prompts for Therapeutic Use

Drawing Prompts can help individuals facing trauma, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Art therapy prompts can provide a creative outlet to express emotions and feelings that may not be easy to verbalize.

Here are some of the most famous art therapy prompts for therapeutic use:

Mirror Drawing

Mirror Drawing is a form of art therapy that can help trauma survivors process their emotions. It involves drawing on one side of a piece of paper, folding it in half, and tracing the lines from the first drawing onto the other.

This creates a symmetrical image that reflects the survivor’s world and emotional landscape. Drawing can help trauma survivors explore their feelings, express themselves creatively, and gain insight into their experiences.

Painting Prompts for Therapeutic Use

Painting Prompts can help individuals face their emotions, reduce anxiety, and build confidence. Art therapy is a great way to explore your feelings and creatively express yourself. Here are some of the most famous art therapy prompts for trauma:

  1. Draw or paint your emotions
  2. Create an emotion wheel
  3. Pinpointing anxiety inside a body outline
  4. Thought bubbles to express inner dialogue
  5. Ritual for channeling in
  6. Open your window of noticing
  7. Growth environment
  8. Alien vampire
  9. Cactus dream
  10. Upside down selfie

Mindfulness Exercises in Art Therapy

Mindfulness exercises in art therapy can be a great way to help process trauma. Art therapy activities, such as mindful drawing, painting, and creative writing, can provide an outlet for emotions that may be difficult to express verbally.

Other mindfulness activities, such as hand lettering affirmations, meditative watercolor doodling, and expressive arts exercises, can also be beneficial.

Here are some of the most popular mindfulness art activities:

  1. Draw Your Breath
  2. Drip Painting
  3. Breathing Beads
  4. Mandalas
  5. Mindful Writing
  6. Dance it out!
  7. Hand Letter Affirmations
  8. Meditative Watercolor Doodling
  9. Expressive Arts Exercises
  10. Meditative Art

Words and Pictures

Art therapy for trauma uses verbal and visual art to help individuals process traumatic experiences.

• Through art, survivors can safely express emotions, explore thoughts, and gain insight into their trauma.

• Art therapy prompts provide structure and focus, such as describing the experience in one word; drawing a picture of feelings; creating an image that symbolizes a healing journey; writing a poem about the experience.

Meditation Painting

Meditation painting is a form of art therapy that combines the practice of meditation with the creative process of painting.

It is used to help people who have experienced trauma express their emotions and feelings safely and non-judgmentally.

Through this art therapy, individuals can explore their inner thoughts and feelings while learning how to relax and focus on the present moment. The goal is to create a space for self-expression, healing, and growth.

Draw Yourself as a Superhero

• Drawing yourself as a superhero can be a practical art therapy prompt for exploring inner strength and resilience.

• Consider selecting a superpower that reflects your strengths and abilities.

• Sketch yourself with the superpower you chose, label your drawing with words to describe feelings towards the issue, use colors representing emotions, and add details to represent aspects of yourself and the situation.

• Reflect on what your self-portrait reveals about how you view yourself and the issue.

Additional Considerations in Art Therapy

When considering art therapy, it is essential to verify the art therapist who is trained and certified.

• Potential risks associated with art therapy should be discussed with both the mind and therapist before beginning treatment.

• Art therapists should respect autonomy and advocacy when working with people with intellectual disabilities.

• Effectiveness of art therapy should be considered before deciding if it is an appropriate form of treatment for a particular individual or situation.

Insurance Coverage for Art Therapy

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy used to help people explore their emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stress, and improve mental and physical health.

• Medicare may reimburse music and art therapists if the visit is prescribed as medically necessary.

• Other insurance companies may cover art therapy services deemed medically necessary.

• Some policies may also cover expressive and creative arts therapies such as dance or drama therapy.

• It is essential to check with your insurance provider to see what type of coverage they offer for art therapy services.

• Certain states have laws that require insurers to cover certain types of mental health treatments, including art therapy.

Art Therapy Prompts For Trauma Conclusion

Art therapy is a powerful tool for addressing the challenges associated with trauma, offering a unique and creative approach to healing.

By exploring various prompts and techniques, individuals can connect with their emotions, process negative experiences, and ultimately find a path toward recovery.

We encourage you to try these various art therapy techniques and prompts and explore additional resources to support your healing journey.

Please know many free resources exist as well. Journaling is one of those activities that doesn’t need to break the bank! See free journal prompts about codependency, art therapy, healing, manifestation, anxiety, self-love, mental health, creativity, self-growth, and self-love.

If you’re willing to spend a few coffees on an evidence-based journal, you’ll be surprised how much more seriously you’ll take your journaling habits.

Our team wants to hear your thoughts too! Let us know which mental health software product that Online Mental Health Reviews should explore and review next. Please share discount codes, horror stories and your experiences so we may all benefit!


If You Are In Crisis

Waiting for an online therapy session in a crisis might not be the safest option. If immediate assistance is required, dial 911, especially if there’s a risk of harm to yourself or others. For thoughts of self-harm, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988, which offers support 24/7.

Additionally, you can contact the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357). This helpline provides free, confidential assistance for individuals struggling with mental or substance abuse disorders, helping them find treatment and access information 24/7, 365 days a year.

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