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Free draw your emotions

· art therapy,self help

I no longer see a younger demographic of children, primarily because I have found my niche with teens, couples and women (who are looking to take life to the next level). But for many years I saw little ones.

After witnessing the power of theraplay and art therapy in various sessions with children (4-17) and my adult clients, I started to tinker with the incorporation of emotion and the subconscious.

I developed an art therapy technique that never ceases to produce wonder in session, and become a catalyst for powerful dialogue. While I don't recommend this without some therapeutic guidance, I often have people ask me about it, so I thought it worth sharing. I started using this tool over 5 years ago, and still use it to this day. If you are going to use this at home with your own children, I suggest both of you doing it, and using it as a tool to open dialogue (perhaps you believe they might be getting bullied, as example).

The concept is a simple one, as the client’s develop their own story through art. For my youngest kids, I offer a sheet with a sampling of emotions drawn within faces (happy, sad, angry, excited, etc) for them to choose from to assist the process.


A tote of markers (I keep a variety of colors and thickness in a small tote)
Clip Board
Sketch Paper (or other blank paper)


Ask your child to identify 3 emotions that they have felt during the last week. Then ask them to pick 3 colors from the marker tote. Then ask them to write each emotion using a different color (using the three they selected) across the top. Now let them know they have 10-15 minutes to free draw.

*Note – teenagers are oriented to specific tasks, so often they’ll ask “what should I draw,” or “what do you want me to draw?” I meet this question with a shoulder shrug and let them know there are no directions beyond coloring, and there’s no right or wrong. Having some Jelly Belly’s on hand always helps loosen up a resistant teen.

The hardest part of this activity is to embrace the 10-15 minutes of silence (this is why I suggest you do the activity as well). Allow your child to color freely without noise; allow them the time and space to be with themselves artistically. Watch for non-verbal clues of completion, note the time on the clock, and give them another two minutes before suggesting you take a look. Some of the most profound artwork as happened after I thought the client was complete.

*Tip – It’s nice to put on some calming music quietly, if your child struggles with silence, it’s more important they feel comfortable to complete the art, than to be terrified in awkward silence.

At completion ask the following questions:

  1. What was this activity like for you?
  2. Ask them to share the emotions they identified, and ask them to share the drawing with you.
  3. Isn’t it interesting how our emotions come out on the paper so clearly? That’s our subconscious doing the work.

Leave enough time to talk about what came up based upon their drawing, it will be easy to draw the emotional connections to the artwork.

If you'd like to schedule a coaching session, or for more tips and tricks like this, sign up for Michaela's eJournal.