Journaling is a powerful and cathartic way to express and process personal thoughts and feelings; a therapeutic art journal typically takes a visual- rather than written- form (although writing is often incorporated).
I like to think of journaling as a kind of self-therapy. Often, what emerges on the page comes from a very intuitive part of the self and can be surprising and enlightening: a mirror to the soul. Journaling is a channel through which inner wisdom can flow. Although journal prompts can be a great way to get started with the process, the habitual journal writer will learn to trust their own instincts. There is no right or wrong way to journal! This absence of rules or an agenda is both liberating and empowering. Can you tell I'm a fan?!
The art journal has played a spectacular role in my own journey of healing and growth. I write in a journal every morning, yet during especially difficult times of intense emotions, or when processing something really significant, I have found myself turning to art instead. Sometimes an image can get straight to the heart of the matter, where words are but a faint shadow.
Having reflected on why images are so helpful on the journey of self-understanding, I believe it is because they offer us something with form and substance to connect our experiences with, so that we can make sense of them. What's more, the universality of metaphors, or symbols, gives us a common language to communicate our thoughts and feelings with others.
I speak from personal experience when I say that the very act of being creative when journaling feels deeply fulfilling. Some felt sense or idea that had been gestating within us is birthed. When it is externalised, we can see it for what it is. This can bring about a real feeling of relief and even joy.
Whilst I think anyone could benefit from art journaling, those who tend to think visually may find it comes quite naturally to them, whereas others prefer the medium of writing, music, drama or the spoken word. All of these are creative ways to explore our inner world. I encourage the clients I work with to find the language that feels right for them.
If you'd like to give art journaling a go, I have put together a list of tips which may help you get started:
Photo credit (below): Paul Bishop