• Dr Laura Hutchison

Zentangle: An Artsy Relaxation Technique

I’m not trained in art therapy, but I definitely use a lot of art and crafts in my work with my clients.  Art and play therapy go so easily together; art can easily be playful and therapeutic.  I also love it because I can use the same art activities for a variety of ages.  It is a wonderful medium to help an adolescent or adult branch out from traditional talk therapy … and explore more expressive avenues.  Avenues that might help them look on their lives and problems in a new way.


One simple way I introduce clients to utilizing art in session … is also an easy one for them to do at home.  It’s especially helpful in lessening anxiety, refocusing, and coming back to center.  I personally also find it very beneficial and was very excited when I discovered this technique years ago.


The technique is called Zentangle.  It is somewhat the art of doodling.  A Zentangle is an art project that one can complete in a short amount of time.  The premise is “anything is possible … one stroke at a time.”    The company sells amazing kits and products to get you started … you can buy everything from a full kit with all the supplies and an instructional DVD to packs of blank or “pre-strung” cards.


To create a basic Zentangle you start with one small blank square card and make one continuous line/scribble (or string in “zentangle” lingo).  From there you fill in each space with a repetitive pattern.


The process of creating a Zentangle can also be very telling … just like with most expressive arts the process during the journey of creating can lead to much self-talk and doubt. (“Am I doing it right?”  “It’s gonna turn out terrible.” etc.)  This alone can be very therapeutic.  After, or sometimes during, my client makes a Zentangle I ask them questions like, “What is your inner voice telling you?” “Who does your inner voice sound like?” “Are there other instances when you hear the same messages?”  I help them explore how this very simple art activity can trigger feelings with their relationship with time, space, others, and self.


If you create Zentangles, I'd love to see them. Feel free to post yours in the comments.

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