Doodling - working creatively

May clients will recoil in horror if the option of working creatively is mentioned by a counsellor. Doodling however seems to be quite often received with, "Oh yes, I do scribble on bits of paper when I’m on the phone or when I’m thinking, but that’s not creative…is it?"

Clients often do become more open to the idea of creative work, and will request adult colouring-in sheets and other hand-out style sheets. They may also be keen to explore other creative options such as journaling. This can greatly help them to connect to feelings and emotions they have found difficult to access or speak of. Working creatively has unlocked a different way of working they might otherwise not have discovered. Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone.

Throughout history we have used visual representations of what’s on our minds and in our memories, which have been used as a way of communicating with others (cave men, the Egyptians etc). There are no verbal barriers as the visual is a universal language - hence working creatively helps us to share additional aspects of our therapeutic relationship such as feelings and emotions that can be hard, or too painful, to be put into spoken words.

Though many people assume that the brain is inactive when they’re bored, the opposite is true. Our brains are constantly working, searching for information to process. If we are in an environment which lacks stimulation, our brain will search for it. This is when we find ourselves daydreaming and fantasising, however these take up a huge amount of energy and concentration (no good if you’re in a meeting).

Doodling provides just enough mental stimulation, during an otherwise boring task, to prevent our minds from totally opting out of the situation and running off into the aforementioned fantasy world. Unfortunately, to doodle is seen very negatively as ‘doing nothing’, being rude and not concentrating and listening. We have become so focused on the importance of verbal communication that we have lost our links and values of using signs and symbols. We have have come to fear our natural creativity.

Essentially, doodling increases our retention of information whilst listening, communicates our ideas through sub-conscious signals and non-verbal communication, and aids us in sharing our view of the world. People who doodle retain up to 29% more information than non-doodlers. We think that doodling is something we do when we lose focus, yet actually it is a pre-programmed measure to stop us losing that focus. It has a profound effect on creative problem solving and the ability to help us process at a deeper level.

This explains, to a degree, why many of us doodle at work, whilst on the phone, when studying in lectures etc. but why would we choose to doodle outside of these situations? It can be beneficial therapeutically because doodling is 'acceptable' and does not require artistic thought or consideration of content. Instead it loses the intimidating aspects of doing it right or wrong and there is no requisite for perfection. 

Doodling can help us to find focus when we feel we want to concentrate and work through things that are on our minds. It can also be a means of having ‘time out’ from everything – in which case the doodling becomes the focus and concentration point and puts our brains in ‘tick-over’ mode while we take a break from our stresses and anxieties. 

Why not give it a go? Be warned you may enjoy it.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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