Treating depression often requires a combination of medications and other therapies. You may be familiar with talk therapy (psychotherapy) as a depression treatment.

Art therapy and vision boards are other complementary therapies that may also help.

These therapeutic techniques are based on creativity and visualization. They use parts of your brain that aren’t accessed with the language that’s used in traditional psychotherapy.

Read on to learn more about:

  • what art therapy and vision boards entail
  • how they may help with depression
  • tips to try these techniques at home

Art therapy is a type of integrative therapy that allows you to express your thoughts and emotions through artistic mediums. Sessions are led by trained mental health professionals.

It’s important to note that art classes in school are notthe same as art therapy.

Creating art can be a creative and relaxing activity that may positively affect your overall mental health.

Art therapy focuses on sensory and symbolic techniques led by professionals who help you access and express your feelings.

The method helps increase self-awareness and mindfulness in a way that may not be accessible through talk therapy alone due to the limitations of language.

Vision boards are a separate therapeutic technique from art therapy. These tactile and visual tools are used by some therapists to help you set goals around your career, family, romantic relationships, and more.

Your therapist may also ask you to create a vision board to help define the goals for your therapy sessions.

You can create a vision board using:

  • magazine clippings
  • photos
  • your own drawings

The images you choose can help you better envision what you’d like your life to look like. Creating a vision board can help you figure out what’s really important to you so you can consciously change your mindset.

Many people anecdotally benefit from both vision boards and art therapy. But what does the research say about using these techniques to treat depression?

Studies on the use of vision boards for depression are limited.

Available research suggests that they may be helpful when combined with solution-focused therapy. This type of psychotherapy helps you change your thinking patterns and behaviors to meet goals you set for yourself.

Art therapists claim that art therapy can increase self-esteem and mindfulness while decreasing anxiety and fatigue. Studies suggest that it may be particularly helpful in people who are coping with trauma or depression.

Some of these same studies have shown noconcrete effect of art therapy on mental illness overall. Part of the issue is that no research has compared patients in art therapy versus those who have not sought any therapy at all.

There’s no evidence that art alone treats depression. This may be due to the fact that art therapy must be led by a certified therapist in order to have measurable benefits.

Art therapy is an integrative treatment that’s meant to be combined with other traditional mental health treatments.

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, it’s important to continue to work with your psychotherapist, psychiatrist, or other mental healthcare professional.

Your therapist will likely recommend creating a vision board at home and bringing your work to your next session. You may still benefit from creating a vision board even if you’re not currently in therapy.

Here’s how to get started with your own vision board:

  1. Choose a poster board or large sheet of paper.
  2. Browse through magazines, online images, photos, or art that represents your life goals. If your goal is to finish high school or college, you might select an image that represents a graduation ceremony or a school you’d like to attend.
  3. Draw some or all of your images, if you’d like.
  4. Glue the cut-out images to your board to make a collage. It doesn’t have to be tidy.
  5. Place your completed vision board in a prominent area, such as your office or bathroom mirror. That way it serves as a daily reminder of your most important goals.
  6. Feel free to create multiple vision boards. Your life goals don’t have to be limited to just one!

True art therapy requires working with a professional art therapist.

You may still be able to reap the benefits of art outside of a formal therapeutic setting. The key is to pursue an activity you enjoy. It should be something you look forward to, not something you dread.

Some ideas for art at home include:

  • finger-painting
  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • scrapbooking
  • calligraphy
  • drawing
  • pottery or clay-molding
  • woodcarving
  • card-making

Vision boards and art therapy are complementary therapies that may help you access feelings or goals you have a hard time expressing with words.

Keep in mind that they’re not meant to treat mental health conditions on their own.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, it’s important to stay in touch with a mental health professional who can help you explore all of your treatment options to find what works best for you.