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  • Writer's pictureKim Gibson, MS, ATR, LPCC

Art Therapy Directive: Creating a Photo Album of Joy or Gratitude

Did you happen to catch the article “Hopeful Images from 2020” published in The Atlantic? I saw it randomly when it first came online and enjoyed looking at the promising pics.

The opening line of the article sums it up perfectly, “This has been a year (2020) like no other, and moments of joy were difficult to come by. The few happy events that took place did so despite harrowing circumstances—or, in many cases, as a response to overwhelming adversity.”

The 32 pictures, all taken in 2020, show personal victories. They show compassion. They show families and friends playing, loving one another, volunteering, working and making a difference. Some pics captured moments of joy.

I thought about the article and the pictures again late Wednesday night. I wanted to look at them again as a counterbalance to the shocking images from the domestic terrorist attack on the Capital. Wednesday’s images were disturbing. The images on news and social media were so far from how things should have been and contrasted so sharply from how I remembered the Capitol Building from my summer in DC. It was disorienting and shocking. I’m still processing the images, the events and all that is going on in our country. And that is OK. I recognize it takes time to process and I need a break from the constant news cycle so I’ve given myself permission to take my time and take a break from the immediate input.

I decided to shift my focus to images that are more helpful and hopeful, which made me think of the Atlantic article again. Shifting is not about ignoring the realities of the deep, deep divide in our country; shifting is about processing more slowly and setting boundaries around how much and what type of imagery I want to focus on.

Which led me to create this art therapy directive:

Art Therapy Directive: Create an album titled “Moments of Joy” or “Moments of Gratitude.” Use pics from your phone that you have already taken or cut some pictures out of a magazine. If you can’t do either, use your imagination and visualize people, places and things that bring you joy. What would your album include? Pics of the beach, sunshine, pets, kids, your neighbors? What about going for a walk and specifically taking pics that bring you feelings of peace & joy?

Materials: Camera pics, cut pics from a magazine, draw some pictures or use your imagination & just visualize

Good for: Anyone!

Purpose: Increase gratitude, joy and awareness. Increase mindfulness of the present moment. Empowering- can choose action when feeling overwhelmed.

Processing/Reflection Questions:

  • If you using pics on your camera, did you notice a shift in your mood or your thoughts when looking through your pics? If so, pretty cool- you can remind yourself that you can take action to improve your mood or thoughts.

  • Were you surprised at how many or how few pics you had that represent joy or gratitude?

  • And if you went for a walk to take pics, did the activity help you stay present or feel more aware?

  • Did trying this activity give your mind a break? Hope so! And if not, what does give your mind a break?

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