Boundaries With Art Therapy

Often, people do not understand how boundaries work. This directive helps to define, highlight, and then create the establishment of healthy boundaries/limits. If there were ever an art therapy directive that makes a HUGE difference, this directive would be IT!


Knowing when to say “yes” and how to say “no” can often be a challenge for people. If a you grew up in an abusive (physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, etc.) environment, that you may have been taught that it is not OK to say “no”. You may have been taught that your body is not your own. In this directive you will do a simple exercise with the to begin to explore the importance of healthy boundaries – identifying what they look like, how they work, and beginning to implement them in your life.

            White paper, Colored Pencils or Magic Markers or Crayons       


1)       Begin the session with defining what boundaries are.

a.      There are boundaries/limitations used in every aspect of life, including but not limited to:                             
i.      Relationships                             
ii.      Work                                   
iii.      Time                             
iv.      Health                             
v.      Money

b.      There are three types of boundaries (draw out an example of each of these boundaries quickly):                             
i.      There are overly RIGID boundaries… (This person has shut herself off to the world around her/him, saying “NO” to the bad things, but also saying “NO” to the good things in life. This person feels isolated and lonely, at the expense of feeling in control.)

  ii.      There are overly WEAK boundaries… (This is where the person cannot say “NO” to anyone. Instead they say “YES” so often that they begin to feel overwhelmed, out of control and unhappy about their lives. They are afraid of saying “NO” because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or they don’t want to make anyone made, or they just don’t think they have a right to say what they will do with their lives and what they won’t.)

iii.      There are HEALTHY boundaries. (This is where the person says “YES” to the things that make her feel GOOD about herself, and “NO” to the things that make her feel BAD about herself – regardless if it makes others happy or not!)

2)     Explore whatyout feel your boundaries look like. Usually it will be a combination of overly Rigid and overly Weak boundaries. 

3)     Draw out what your boundaries look like right now. 

4)     Look at the drawing and identify what each coluor/symbol means to you. 

5)     Do a second drawing. This one will be what you would like your boundaries to look like. 

6)    What it will take to get to this place and specific actions that you can take to obtain the confidence to establish these boundaries in your life.

Additional Procedure

1)   When your is ready, ask yourself how the boundary-setting is going. Usually, there will be struggles. At this point, a colour and draw out a circle, first, representing yourself, and then other circles that represent others in your life. Show in the drawing how much you feels each one/thing is in your space.

2)   Make another drawing showing what it would look like if these things were no longer in your space and you were able to have healthy boundaries with each of the areas indicated in Step 1.

3)   Make sure to emphasize the possibility that through the use of healthy boundaries the client can have your life look as complicated or simple as you wants. Think about what this would take.

Reflection/Processing Questions To Ask Yourself Or To Work With Your Therapist:

1)      Tell me about your drawing. What do you notice when you look at it?

2)     What is holding you back from creating the boundaries you want in your life?

3)     What will it take to be able to set healthy boundaries?

4)     How do you feel about practicing saying “no” with me? Let’s practice.

5)     How can you let go of wanting to please others or avoid their anger?

6)     What areas of your life are within your control where you can use boundaries?

7)     How was this process for you?


1)      People often struggle with the concept. It will be important to take it slowly and allow yourself to take it at your own pace. You may need to think about it before taking action on it. You will more than likely want to come back tothink about how it went (i.e., saying “no” to abusive or intrusive relationship, etc.) and could get discouraged with initial results. Keep using encouragements and focus on strengths. 

2)     Getting down the details of how this works is important. Kknow that you have the right to say when/if someone touches you may be the focus. It may also be important to distinguish “People Pleasing” and how to work on providing self with love rather than avoiding losing it from others. Each person will have their own “spin” on how boundaries will look for him/her. It will be important to allow yourself to think freely about how this process is going.

3)     It may be necessary to continue to reinforce this concept multiple times. Often, this can be such a foreign concept to people that they only grasp bits and pieces of the full importance of how boundaries work. Be prepared to go through the drawings multiple times.

 4)     People often think there is a “wrong” way and a “right” way to create boundaries. It will also be important to realise that each person is different and however you feel your boundaries need to be is OK. You get to determine when you want to say “no” and when you are ready to say “yes”. Being in touch with how you feel in any moment will also be important andyou may have dissociated themselves from your feelings because of the pain associated with them. You may have to do some work to help get back in touch with how you “feel” (i.e., feelings versus emotions) so that you can begin to see feelings as healthy and also important indicators to listen to.

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I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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