All too often we focus on the negative aspects of our relationship with food, and our bodies. We forget that we may have developed some of our attitudes and actions for reasons that, at the time, were the best coping strategies we could come up with. Eventually we may outgrow these strategies or they may become inappropriate and, at times, self destructive. We intellectually know that it is time to let them go, but process takes time. In the meantime, it is important not to vilify yourself for what you have done to take care of yourself the best way you knew how. Thanking your body, fat and all, is a healing action. Thanking your food and what it did to help you is also a healthy part of the process of change.
Writing these notes, is a tangible ritual that concretizes this process and allows for the client to consider moving forward.
“Thank You Card” Art Therapy Exercise
Materials: Card stock paper, markers, pens, pencils, collage materials, glue sticks, postage stamps, and envelopes.
How To: I know that this may not seem to be the most unique or original of Therapeutic Arts activities but because of the unique focus of the activity (see the Why section) it can be a very powerful one.
- Have your clients sit quietly and think about at least one positive contribution that food and or their body have made in their life.
- While thinking about this, also ask them to think of images, colors, words, which come up that are associated with these positive memories/connections between food/body and their overall sense of well being.
- Using all of the art materials available, have the client make a thank you card with these images on the outside and then write their appreciation story on the inside. Of course they can use graphic images on the inside as well, it doesn’t need to be just text, as long as it is specific and clear when read out loud, what is being thanked and what it is being thanked for.
- Have each member of the group that wants to share their card read it out loud and see if there are any similarities. Discuss the upcoming holiday in the framework of self-care.
- Put the cards inside the stamped envelopes and have each client address them.The therapist mails the cards to the clients in time for Thanksgiving.
This exercise was created by contributing guest author Dr. Deah Schwartz. Dr. Schwartz shares art therapy exercises to facilitate exploration, increased awareness and healing in the areas of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Some of these activities may need to be facilitated over more than one session, or modified for different ability levels, size of group, budget and size of work space. Learn more about art therapy and eating disorders.
*Image courtesy of lara.