Art Therapy: Painting Your Body In Emotion

Painting emotions is a great way to learn more about where and how a person experiences their feelings. I learned this activity from a colleague, and I wish I knew the original source so I could credit them here. This is a fairly popular activity among therapists, which is a testament to how effective it is. It’s great for all ages, but I have used it only with children and teens so far.

You don’t have to be a therapist though. This is a wonderful tool for parents to use when talking with their kids about feelings. Whether you want to have a general discussion, or you want them to express feelings they may have over a certain event or problem (such as changing schools or divorce), this activity is appropriate.

I’m going to share some pictures of this activity done in previous sessions. No identifying information about the painters, such as gender, age, or names, will be shared in order to protect confidentiality.

What You Need:

Large construction paper

Cut-out of body (or draw one- I show examples of both)

Paint (at least 4 colors)

Paint brushes (although finger painting would work too)

Glue or glue stick

Pen or marker

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Glue the body onto the construction paper.

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Choose the feelings you want represented (Happy, Sad, Angry, Worried, Fearul, Nervous, etc.) and paint the part of the body that feeling is most often expressed. Talk about a time when you felt that feeling as well. Here are some examples to help with the explanation. Notice how the key to the colors is written on the side to reference later.

This child indicated their happy feeling was in their heart. They painted the face blue because they cry when they are sad. Notice they painted their legs red (anger) and explained this was because they want to kick things when they are angry. Purple is for nervous because their hands get sweaty.

The pre-teen painting this body has symptoms of ADHD and struggle with attention. They requested to include “distracted” as a feeling and painted their face “distracted” because they claimed to have trouble keeping their mind focused. Theypainted their hands red because they want to hit things when angry.

This child painted red for angry and covered their head, one hand (for hitting), and heart. Needless to say this is a child with a lot of anger. Black represented scared and blue represented sad.

Like other therapeutic activities, a lot of the value is in the discussion, as well as the activity itself. I always tell them that they can paint a feeling, and if they choose not to share more about why they painted that feeling where they did, they don’t have to. This allows them the opportunity to express feelings within themselves, even if they are not comfortable sharing more.

Have you tried this activity? If so, what was your experience?

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Published by

Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

3 thoughts on “Art Therapy: Painting Your Body In Emotion

      1. Elinas, thank you for the comment! If you can shed some light on how it went, maybe I can offer some suggestions. Also, I have done this activity with some clients and found it was not as helpful as I hoped, yet with other clients it was a great success! In fact, this is the case with all my activities. Not every activity works with every client…. I wish I could find it! Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you soon!

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