Guided Drawing: A Sensorimotor Art Therapy Method

Guided Drawing is a Sensorimotor Art Therapy technique created and taught by Cornelia Elbrecht, BA, MA (Art Ed), AThR, SEP. Cornelia Elbrecht describes it as a "self-massage" but I also think of it as a Mental Health Massage.  


The reason for that is because it is a way to take your internal body symptoms and experiences (tightness, discomfort, distress, etc) and provide a response or remedy through your drawing by the shapes and movements that are used.  Individuals typically end a session feeling "lighter" or "happier" or "less-stressed."  


During Guided Drawing sessions, individuals can choose among a variety of art materials including crayons, oil pastels, chalk pastels and finger paint. Individuals typically create a series of 2-5 paintings and a session may last from a few minutes or an entire therapy session.  


There is no reason to rush your Guided Drawing session!  You have plenty of time and there are always enough materials.


Guided Drawing: Available In Individual or Group Sessions

Current therapy clients may request more information about incorporating Guided Drawing into your treatment plan at any time.  Guided Drawing is never required!  However, if your therapist thinks that this might be a helpful part of your treatment, it may be offered during your individual session.  


If you are not currently involved in therapy, but would like to attend a group workshop on Guided Drawing, we are now offering small group sessions for general stress management.  *This is available on a limited-basis in Maryland with consideration for current COVID policies.  Please contact me to discuss. 


  • At the end of the session, you may (if you choose) share your experience with other attendees.  
  • To schedule a private class with your work team, your family, or friends, please email info@jentaylorplaytherapy to set up. 

Attend a guided drawing class - space is limited


Frequently Asked Questions About Guided Drawing 

1

Do I really have to draw with my eyes closed?

No... having your eyes closed is ideal; however,  you always have permission to keep your eyes partially open if you feel more comfortable.  In Guided Drawing, the focus is on the process and not actually drawing a picture.


When you have your eyes open, you might be inclinded to make an image instead of focusing on drawing lines and motions that represent your internal bodily experience.  For that reason, most individuals feel that they are better able to attune to their inner world with their eyes closed.


*If you have a history of trauma and feel unsafe closing your eyes completely, please discuss this with your therapist in advance.  

2

What Does Bilateral Drawing Mean? 

Bilateral drawing simply means that you draw with both hands.  You are encouragad to do this in whatever way resonates with your internal body experience.  Your hands might make movements in opposite directions, they might draw together (each doing the same movement in close proximity) or you may have times where one hand "takes a break" and then responds again.  There are no "rules."  The process of using both hands while drawing and "crossing the midline" helps the right and left hemispehres of the brain connect and communicate. 

3

How do I know what to draw?  What do you mean when you say "listen to your body?" 

The idea of drawing your internal bodily sensation may seem a little odd at first.  However, the actual process is different for each person.  You might scan your body for any areas of discomfort or stress.  And, in whatever way makes sense to you, you will create movements on the paper that represent that area of pain or discomfort.  Those movements might be scribbles in the form of lines or circular representations.  There is no way to do this wrong.  Whatever comes to you is exactly what your body needs to express in that moment. 

4

How does this make me feel better? 

Used with Permission

After your initial drawing where you use the paper to make lines and shapes to externalize your distress, you will be prompted by your therapist to know think about what your body needs to feel better.  Again, thinking of this as a "Mental Health Massage" or a "Self Massage" you will think about the motions that might ease the tension or take away the discomfort.  If you are struggling to find a motion that helps, your therapist may offer some suggestions and invite you to test them out on the page.  Typically, after completing a series of drawings using these techniques (mapping the distress and then responding with a remedy), individuals notice an overall reduction in stress, discomfort or tension.  At the end of your session, you and the therapist/group can process what the experience was like for you and this typically deepens the value of the entire session. 


Before Choosing Guided Drawing

Some things to consider before deciding to participate in a Guided Drawing session.

Pros

  • Does not require talking about specific trauma or details.   
  • Clients often feel some relief in first session.
  • This "bottom-up" approach supports nervous system regulation and can make talking about trauma later easier. 
  • People often describe it like a "self-massage."  I call it a "mental health massage"

Cons

  • Your hands and/or clothes might get chalk, pastels, or paint on them. 
  • Bodily distress may increase before it decreases.
  • This model is trauma-informed; however, evidence of the effectiveness  is based mainly on experiential reports and observations from the creator, Cornelia Elbrecht over her 40 years of use. 

Mental Health Professionals:

Professionals: If you are interested in learning how to incorporate Guided Drawing into your clinical work, I would encourage you to take the online course available thorugh the Institute for Sensorimotor Art Therapy and/or purchase the book, Healing Trauma with Guided Drawing: A Sensorimotor Art Therapy Approach to Bilateral Body Mapping.


This book is one of my top 5 recommended books.  I completed the 7-week online course in Spring 2020 and found it to be professionally done, extremely thorough and rigorous.  It has become a very valuable resource in my clinical practice.  If you would like more information about my personal experience with the book or the course, please email me at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com


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