This presentation will explore the role of art therapy in meaning and accomplishment, the last letters of PERMA, Seligman’s (2012) model of flourishing and wellbeing. Art therapy contributes uniquely to the meaning-making process, benefit finding and posttraumatic growth through a series of processes—revealing parts of the brain and consciousness otherwise not visible; enabling symbolic communication; evoking positive emotions and shifting the experience of negative emotions; promoting feelings of empathy; offering opportunities to visualize strengths and attend to the good; identifying values, assumptions and beliefs; shifting narratives by illustrating richer and more nuanced glimpses of our thoughts and feelings; and overcoming the negativity bias by bringing more positive elements of our experience into our awareness. .
Art therapy also uniquely promotes accomplishment. Artmaking is, In and of itself, literally accomplishment—something is made. The challenges posed by the creative process entail mastery and the resulting artwork often evokes feelings of pride and sense of accomplishment. Art also gives a unique glimpse into what we want to accomplish and how we might best do so--motivation, pathways, strengths, and agency. The artwork then becomes a record of the therapy process, a testimony to what was “accomplished” in the course of therapy.