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Restorative Embodiment and Creative Expression Practices

Since I was a kid, I intuitively used art and other creative practices to self soothe, and self regulate.

Now as an adult working with clients, I have observed how all forms of expressive arts are naturally action-oriented processes that help us express, explore, restructure, and reframe our trauma in self empowering ways.

To heal the deepest roots of emotional pain you need to gain access to the inspiring and encouraging imagery that arises from your creative unconscious mind. This empowers you to be creative, connected, and authentic. Give yourself permission to be a beginner, to experiment, to learn, to make mistakes and messes. Through play and creativity, we become alchemists of our own experience.   

Once we begin to understand and value the intuitive parts of our nature and the power of the unconscious mind to influence everyday reality and the choices we make, we will gain access to even deeper wisdom, clarity and truth.

Art journaling is a wonderful way to reach the deep recesses of the mind, where we can investigate with compassion and curiosity, the more mysterious parts of our nature. We have a hidden wellspring that can only be reached by creating a free flowing, un-judgmental intercourse with yourself.

If you don’t already have an art journal, the best kind is a mixed media sketch book.  You want to be able to use all sorts of mediums, so thicker pages are good.

This can activate creativity deep within and allow your brain to explore beyond set patterns.

Artists can get into ruts and replicate what’s comfortable, which can lead to staleness. Limiting ourselves can force us to approach our art in a different way.

My hope is that we will all someday be able to integrate this healing practice into your daily life.

Warmup: bilateral drawing

Bilateral stimulation helps to regulate body and mind thus allowing explicit memory to be reconnected with implicit memory.

  • Bilateral stimulation engages both hemispheres of the brain, connecting "thinking" to feeling," which has an impact on trauma recovery.

  • Bilateral stimulation may help regulate body and mind, allowing trauma survivors' explicit memory to be reconnected with their implicit memory.

  • Bilateral drawing, a form of art therapy, can be used by trauma survivors to ground themselves. This can reduce the freeze response.


By the simplest definition, bilateral simply means “involving two sides.”

Bilateral expressive work is useful with both individuals who are easily hyperactivated (fight or flight) or are susceptible to reacting to distress with a freeze response; these individuals often need experiences that involve movement in order to reduce their sensations of feeling trapped, withdrawn, or dissociated.

Making marks or gestures on paper with both hands simultaneously also creates an attention shift away from the distressing sensations in the body to a different, action-oriented, and self-empowered focus. It offers an embodied, self-soothing experience and the power to alter one’s own internal rhythms for self-regulation and well-being.

Popular psychology often works only to heal the conscious mind, traditional therapy can fail to address the deepest parts of you because it does not access the deep hidden parts of your psyche, or your disconnection with your authentic nature.

Art expression helps us break the surface and dive into our deepest depths.

Movement, rhythm, sound, enactment, and play are all forms of embodiment that have the potential to be restorative for body, mind, and spirit. In expressive arts therapy, there are many approaches that focus directly on the body to support restoration through specific strategies and prompts.

Make your own Mandala

When you create your own mandala, think of it as an echo of your soul. Drawing and colouring a mandala can be a highly enriching personal experience in which you look inside yourself and find the shapes, colours and patterns to represent anything from your current state of mind to your most deeply-desired wish for yourself, for a loved one, or for humanity.

The very nature of creating a mandala is therapeutic and symbolic. The shapes and colors you create in your mandala art therapy will reflect your inner self at the time of creation. Your instinct and feeling should inspire and guide you through the process of creation.

Ultimately, you will be creating a portrait of yourself as you are when creating the mandala. 

So, whatever you are feeling at that time, whatever emotions are coming through, will be represented in your mandala art therapy.

As with most art therapy, it’s not about the final product…it’s about the journey. When you reach your destination, you will have a representation of something meaningful and personal…a snapshot of you for a brief moment in time expressed through your mandala.

Once you’ve finished your mandala art activity, take note of the colors you used. Recognize, maybe even write down, what the predominant colors are in your mandala. Also take note of the least-used color(s). Now look at the images and shapes you’ve created. Take notice of any hard and soft lines, jagged or smooth edges. Are there any areas of high contrast? Now write down, in detail, your feelings and/or memories when you think about the colors, shapes, images, and designs on your mandala. You should be able to make some connections between your mandala and the feelings and emotions that you experienced while creating it.

This is meant to be a very personal and introspective activity and process, so the results are bound to vary. Again, it’s important to recognize that your mandala is a symbol, a reflection, of who you were when you created it. Ideally, the process of creating the mandala results in some form of self-healing, self-expression, and/or self-exploration.

To dive a bit deeper into your expressive arts practice, end your session with stream of conscious/free association writing.

First gaze deeply at your image. Is it a person? A child? Is it an animal? Perhaps a cat? Is it a non-being? Perhaps a tree? Step into the image and feel its energy, its mood, its intention. Imagine it has a history, and that it has a voice.

Try using the words, I Am One Who…and go on from there, describing yourself as if you were the image, where you are, what you are doing, giving little personal descriptions.


It takes committed effort to disrupt dysfunctional patterns. This is our work. It’s not easy but there is deep soul-nourishment in the work.

Perfectionism is a dead-end. Nourishment comes from honoring our humanity, our truth, integrity, our own organic timing, and the messy, authentic beauty of life.

Much love ❤️

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