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  • Writer's picturemarti mcginnis

Creative Healing: Unleashing Therapeutic Potential through Art

In my ongoing journey as a professional artist, I've unearthed the profound healing potential embedded in the creative process. Engaging in art became an unwitting but powerful therapeutic practice, providing me with a means to find balance and fortify my emotional core.

Creative Healing in Action

As I transitioned into teaching, the therapeutic benefits of creative healing became even more apparent, especially among the boys (ages 9-14) in my cartooning classes at the Evanston Art Center near Chicago, Illinois.

These young minds arrived at class carrying the weight of challenges related to the stories and characters they fervently created at school. One particular boy insisted on sketching stick figures, despite his evident capability for more intricate art. It seemed he had grown weary of adult guidance in various aspects of his life, prompting a need for a more tailored approach to encourage his creative healing.

In a negotiated compromise, he continued with his stick figures, provided that his stories reached a new level of excellence. The challenge was met, and his narratives transformed into compelling tales.

Navigating Resistance through Creative Healing

I noticed a resistance to traditional guidance, perhaps stemming from a weariness with adults directing him in multiple facets of life. This experience reinforced my belief in the transformative power of person-centered art-making and the necessity of creating space for individuals to guide their own artistic journey.

Empowering Through Artistic Expression

This vital lesson has become foundational to my teaching philosophy. In my workshops today, I emphasize the acquisition of skills while leaving room for participants to apply that knowledge in their unique way. It's a shift from traditional instruction, where aesthetics are often dictated by the teacher's preferences.


woman painting paper mache mask as a part of creative healing

Participants may initially grapple with this approach, accustomed to guidance that leans more towards the teacher's preferences than their own explorations. I reassure them that I am there to address technical and engineering queries, but the essence of their artistic voice and vision will provide a more profound connection with the medium—thus fostering creative healing.

Ultimately, each participant creates something distinctly their own—a testament to the power of creative healing within the artistic journey. This approach, although potentially unsettling in the initial stages, yields immense satisfaction for both the participant and me, reinforcing the belief in the therapeutic potential of the creative process.

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