Monthly Archives: November 2014


I am counting my many blessings this Thanksgiving, and also feeling kind of sad. I sometimes get happy holidays texts from teens that I saw in art therapy, and today I heard from a former client who is not doing so well. She’s an amazing girl, very dear to me, and we have a lot of history together.

In psychology jargon, our relationship would be described as a strong therapeutic alliance. The term describes a relationship between therapist and client in which a sense of safety, trust, and common therapeutic goals is present. It has been said that a strong therapeutic alliance predicts better outcomes in therapy. But I say that a strong therapeutic alliance IS the therapy, and that therapy can’t happen without it. How much a client feels you care always trumps factors such as treatment method.

And so, a deep relationship led to a long Thanksgiving Day conversation with someone that I haven’t seen in a year and a half but care deeply about. And I am thankful for that.

Below is some artwork by kids depicting the therapeutic alliance. I’m the one with the purple hair and glasses.


This child shows how the sun and rain help a flower to bloom (the yellow arrow from the sun to the flower is hard to see, easier if you click to enlarge). What I love about this picture is the blue arrow, her awareness of how important the relationship is to me, too, how our relationship is a circle, and not at all one-sided.

flowers and sun

Flowers are a common metaphor in pictures about relationships.


Cheers! The clinical term may be therapeutic alliance, but often the word friendship better describes it.

friendship juice

Zigzag books

book boxI’ve written before about the importance of containers in art therapy. Books are great containers for all kinds of expression. Fortunately, journals and sketch books, recycled books for altering, and paper for handmade structures are all readily available.

There are many easy ways to make simple books from one piece of paper. A basic zigzag (or accordion) book is just a long, narrow piece of paper, sharply folded back and forth in any shape or proportion. Any relatively sturdy piece of paper works for this.

zz examplesThe books can be used to display a collection of drawings or photos, or used as little journals. I glued a collection of  little mandalas on the pages of this 3X3 book.

mandala zzIf you want an accordion book to close, both side edges have to be secured somehow. I love finding different clasps and ties for these.

purple square

cartoon zzYou can also work directly on a blank book, and the space, whether horizontal or vertical, becomes like a little mural. So this space is great for longer or wider designs, poems, graffiti, boyfriends’ names, etc.

dots zz

dots zz coverYou can use one or both sides of the paper. I put a cardboard cover on this one and lined the other side with brown paper, because I used Sharpies and they soaked through.

dots zz open coverKids love working with zigzag books, particularly if they are mounted (after completion) in small boxes, which can also be decorated. Boxes make them special, gift-like, precious. Any small box you can collect works well. I use photo corners to mount the book ends in the box, but glue works fine too.


happy happy day



zz3Whether or not you decide to make some zig zag books, please remember this important advice about life from illustrator Maira Kalman: