1. says

    Hi Andrea,

    Thanks so much for your kind feedback. How wonderful that you are going to use the engagement exercise with a new client!

    If you have the time, I’d love to hear how that goes :)

    Take care,

  2. says

    Actually, Andrea – your enthusiasm for the engagement exercise reminded that there were two additional optional components that you could include (time permitting) subsequent to the part I described:

    1) ask the client to write a little story based upon his/her favorite three images out of the bunch that you two created – and query how the client found this activity, thoughts about the story etc.

    2) ask the client to select the three words out of the story that pop out to him/her as the most significant – then look with the client at those three words in isolation and ask the client what those words mean to the client and what thoughts come to mind…typically some important information is revealed

    Hoping this helps,

  3. says

    I enjoyed this post, Dorlee. I think the arts are very powerful in reaching people at a deep emotional level. Also, thanks for including a link to the art and photo therapy article from THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER.


    • says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Linda.

      Yes, I really saw that art therapy enables us to connect with others at a deep emotional level… In this particular case, it seemed to allow me far greater access at a first meeting than I would have expected.

      Take care,

  4. says

    Brilliant article that expresses well the difference that art can make. I particularly love that you give practical examples. Really struck a chord as I am passionate about this subject too.

    I also use art therapy in my work with disengaged teens as a means of helping them to visualise a more positive future as creativity is all about creating and imagining something that doesn’t yet exist. Such a vital life skill. I wrote about it in a recent blog post on creativity.

    I love the whole concept of your site by the way. Great resources = great social work practice!

    • says

      Hi Sam,

      Thanks so much for visiting, and for sharing some of your experiences and learnings, and your kind feedback.

      It’s so wonderful that you use art therapy as a powerful clinical tool in with disengaged teens.

      What you are saying makes so much sense…I hadn’t yet realized the therapeutic impact of the creative act itself on a person’s contemplation (the first stage of behavior change) that is, the ability to see beyond one’s current frame of reference. This is indeed a vital life skill…

      Thanks – I look forward to learning from you – be it here or your lovely blog :)

      Take care,

  5. says

    I’m reminded of my classroom teaching days with this post. There were students who would struggle in every class, but once a blank sheet of paper and pencils or paints were placed before them, a grand transformation would take place. Frowns would turn upside down. Posture would be a little straighter. Suddenly, everyone is in awe of the work that this “struggling” student manages to produce.

    It’s sad when the arts are often the first thing that gets cut by school boards, especially when there the benefits have been proven.

    “When we access our creativity we access our joy,” heard at a workshop. Based upon your experiences, a lot more is also accessed.

    • says

      Hi Marianna,

      Thanks so much for sharing what a remarkable difference the arts made in your classroom with your students. As I was reading “frowns would turn upside down,” you also brought a big smile to my face :)

      It is very sad that the alternate methods of expression, be it artistic or physical are immediately cut when there are monetary concerns. Different folks need need different strokes…and the world out there is only becoming more challenging and stressful.

      I love that expression you shared: “when we access our creativity, we access our joy!’ This is so true…

      Take care,

  6. says


    I happened to stumble across your blog while exploring I really enjoyed reading about the engagement exercise. Unfortunately, I’m a medical social worker that works predominantly with adults and the elderly. However, if I ever have the time and a long-term young patients I’d love to try that exercise as a way of building rapport.

  7. says


    I’m so glad you happened to stumble across my blog and that you enjoyed this post.

    While art therapy is often thought of as an activity to engage with children and adolescents, it is one that adults may benefit from as well. In fact, my above illustration of a first session happens to be with an adult.

    I hope you get a chance to try it soon :)

  8. Anonymous says

    Thank you for your post, Darlee. I enjoyed reading it.
    I am very new to social work profession, just graduated in May 2013. I am interested in applying art in work with clients ( adult population), and am wondering – are social workers required to take any art courses prior to applying some art techniques into their practice? even if it is not an art therapy? if so, what are regulations regarding those techniques? I checked ATCB website, but didn’t find any clear guidance.. Please could you give any advice, from your perspective and experience? Thank you! Yana

  9. says

    There are different ways to incorporate art therapy techniques into your practice as a social worker but I would only do after taking some classes and getting appropriate supervision.

    The specific rules/methods may also vary by state so I would first recommend that you check with your state requirements/rules… and confirm that you are allowed to do so as a social worker.

    Once you have confirmed that you are permitted to do so within your state, I suggest you look for a few classes in art therapy as well as for someone qualified who could provide you with supervision.

    Pamela is one art therapist who provides both online art therapy courses and supervision

    Hoping this helps

  10. Anonymous says

    Thank you Dorlee!
    Could you please share how did you choose what classes to take? And what classes in art therapy you took? Was it just for better understanding of art in SW practice or did you follow some requirements of a Board in choosing the classes to take?
    Thank you again,

  11. says

    Hi Yana,

    I don’t know what state/country you live in and/or intend to practice in but the rules/specifications literally vary state by state. In addition, how far you want to go with your studies/licensing will also impact things…

    For example, I reside in New York. In New York, a social worker who takes classes in art therapy may employ various art therapy techniques in her work with clients [seeking supervision as needed].

    However, if you wanted to go as far as you could with art therapy and/or be called an art therapist, just taking a couple of classes would not be sufficient. You would have to get another degree and another license. As an ex., here are the requirements in NY

    In my particular case, I was not trying to be an art therapist; however, I was most interested in learning about this area and incorporating some art therapy tools into my work with clients.

    It so happened that the school I had attended for my MSW offered a graduate class in Creative Arts Therapy for Clinical Social Work and this is where I took the class I wrote about it in my blog.

    Many different graduate schools of social work offer various elective classes. But if you’ve already graduated, I would suggest you start out with taking a workshop or two in the subject to test the waters.

    And then if you are truly interested, you can start exploring the various options in your area for deepening your knowledge according to the amount of resources you have at your disposal (time, money, availability of classes etc.). Your teacher (s) would be good resources for additional information.

    Hoping this helps,

  12. Anonymous says

    Hi Dorlee,

    Thank you for your detail answer, and the link you gave me. It helps to understand this area better ( by area I mean the connection between art, art therapy, and a social work). I am going to practice in California, but am still in the process of finding my real passion. I’ll keep reading your blog and maybe new questions will arise soon :)

    Thanks again!

  13. says

    Hi Yana,

    It was my pleasure :) Here is another link that you may find helpful < this link is to the Art Therapy Credentials Board – they indicate the requirements for being an art therapist as well as some other possible variations – being a social worker and going for a certain number of credits at an accredited school etc. And then you go for a licensing exam as an art therapist etc.

    Enjoy your explorations,

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