As a therapist, I often hear from my clients about an intense moment that they had in between sessions, in which they wished that they had been with someone supportive. I think we all can relate to this dilemma, something triggers an strong reaction within our mind, body, spirit or self and we feel overwhelmed and alone.

For so many of us, this happens late at night, when our loved ones are asleep or perhaps we are all alone. Whatever the circumstances may be, the need is to help us ride the wave of the experience without falling into behaviors or thought patterns that do more damage than help.

Or perhaps you have just had one of those delicious “Ah-Ha!” moments, when something clicks and you stumble upon some meaningful insight into your experiences, and you want to capture it so that you can recall what it was, to lean into the juiciness of self discovery and healing, to create a deeper sense of letting go.

Then again, perhaps you are feeling a sense of confusion, unsure of what or how you are feeling yet knowing that there is some sort of turmoil or unease brewing inside. Your thoughts might not be able to do justice to understanding it. It is something less verbal.

This is where a visual journal can support your healing.

Metaphorically, I imagine a visual journal like one of those mason jars you might use to create a little habitat for a caterpillar to eventually morph into a butterfly. Inside the jar, you will continue to add bits of food, to nourish the caterpillar while it gently grows, preparing itself for the cocoon. In your journal, you are capturing moments, snapshots, of your experience as they wash over you, slowly building towards understanding, healing and transformation.

A caterpillar cannot morph into a butterfly overnight, it must work towards the goal, bit by bit. Each action it takes is imperative for its final transformation. Nor can we heal fully from the experience of facing cancer or another life threatening condition, without taking small steps to understand how it has impacted our body, mind, spirit, and self.

So if you are intrigued by this idea, give it a try. I recommend visual journalling, the process of transcribing our emotional, internal landscape onto paper through color, shape and form, because so often when we face a life threatening condition, words can only capture our experience up to a certain point. Through the practice of using art to symbolize our less verbal experiences, they become more tangible and easier to identify, allowing them to eventually be incorporated into our sense of self. Writing after we have spent time drawing, can help us to deepen the understanding. Over time, the pieces begin to come together.

If you are not sure where to begin, check out this blog post, Healing through Art and Writing, or consider contacting me for a free consultation. We can discuss your needs and I can share how I work with people virtually or in person.

Until next week…

– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, who works as an oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Through Creative Transformations, Stephanie works with people in person and online to offer cancer coaching, a DIY Individual Art Therapy program to enhance any healing work you are undertaking; workshops; and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss one by visiting our website, Creative Transformations, where you will also find the links to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.