In this blog I want to explain what I mean when I talk about art-based coaching and therefore why I feel it has such an important place in coaching.
As a coach who paints, I firmly believe that art has an important role in coaching as it deepens and enriches our coaching conversations with our clients, supporting personal growth and development in a way that pure verbal coaching cannot. This has been further supported over the years through my own practice as well as working with other coaches who have seen great results for their clients when using art in their practices.
Art is a form of communication
Art is a form of communication that pre-dates written and verbal language and we human beings have used it for tens of thousands of years to communicate our place in the world; our ideas, feelings and perceptions. Psychology has also found that using image making allows people to externalise and understand that which otherwise they have found difficult and/or impossible to articulate. Art Therapists use this approach to great effect.
Art has always been a visual expressive language. One that we have always used but in today’s world, unless we are artists, we leave behind us in childhood. And yet, we are inundated with imagery today. It is the image that catches our attention, connects to us in some way and creates a response from us. The image persuades us to read more, click on the link, explore further, or prompts us to move on.
Defining art-based coaching
However, when we think of the word ‘art’, we can have an instinctive reaction to it. If we don’t see ourselves as artistic or creative, we tend polarise it into either something elitist, for the gifted and wealthy, or as something that children do for amusement and play. We judge ourselves and judge art, and artists. We don’t see it having a place in our everyday world. Although my paragraph above offers a challenge to that!
It is, therefore, important to understand that when I talk about art and art-based coaching, I am not talking about creating finished pieces of artwork, masterpieces, or great drawings to frame for the wall. Here art is any image that a client produces, using the visual expressive language of colour, shape, line, texture, and imagery, which holds meaning for them. It could be an image created as a drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, or a mixture. The image could be abstract or realistic, or a mix of the two.
Art-based coaching is creating and holding a space that allows our client to use their visual expressive language to externalise their interior selves into their image, working intuitively without censorship and judgement.
Through this process of creating and then connecting to their image supported by the coach’s naïve inquiry, the art deepens and enriches the coaching conversation; moving our client to a much deeper level of awareness and understanding, enabling them to find personal meanings, new perspectives and connections that can, and often do, lead to transformational shifts.
Some examples of clients’ art