Litercurious Book Review

TitleEssential Art Therapy Exercises: Effective Techniques
to Manage Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD
AuthorLeah Guzman
PublisherRockridge Press (March 17, 2020)
FormatKindle, Paperback


Learn all about Leah Guzman on her website here.


This work is directed towards every artist, student, parents of children or adults with mental or physical challenges and anyone wanting to reduce stress through creativity.


The author begins by describing the many uses of art based therapy from a psychotherapeutic approach to psychological or emotional conflicted individuals. Leah Guzman clarifies the art therapist’s qualifications and the training that goes into making a professional clinician. In addition, she posits the wide ranging and varied benefits arriving from the application of art therapy exercises under the tutelage of a competent therapist. She further explains the historic beginnings of Art Therapy as a treatment for people with Tuberculosis in sanatoria during the 1930s to improve mental health and reduce stress.

She describes both the short and long-term goals that drive the path of art as a therapy. One example is the method of visual documentation of thoughts and feelings through art therapy. The therapeutic goal of the art work is to provide an insight into the inner angst of the patient. The art makes visible the cause of pain, stress or discomfort; be it emotional, physical or subconscious.

Leah Guzman argues that research conducted by Marcia Rosal, in her book Cognitive Behavioral Art Therapy (CBAT), provides data that supports the positive effects of CBAT. She further postulates that CBAT provides the most effective treatment for several psychological based conditions by: alleviating stress, increasing coping skills and the adaption of the environment to increase self-esteem and self-control, thereby building emotional resilience and promoting healing. She further theorizes that one of the benefits of CBAT identified by Rosal, is the increased ability of the patient to enhance and organize thought processes.

Essential Art Therapy Exercises covers all aspects of self-guided art based therapy and expounds the many benefits of employing a professional art therapist. It includes a chapter on useful materials for art therapy and the important need for an “art safe place.” A place where you can come and go and not worry about someone tampering with your art work.

Throughout the guide there are numerous examples of art exercises to try. One example that particularly conforms to the goal orientated approach is the feeling wheel (see Loc 511). Each exercise breaks down into individual components. The kind of exercise depends on the type of trauma or condition. For each one there are benefits and steps required to complete the exercise; whether it is pastels, paintings, sculpture or any other art form. Every exercise is accompanied by a brilliant full color photograph.

Essential Art Therapy Exercises concludes with a list of useful online resources which includes helplines for a range of emergencies. This is followed by a compendium of references, acknowledgements, and section about the author.


I found Essential Art Therapy to be a revelation in more ways than one. Everyone could benefit from some CBAT to ease the stress and tensions of these challenging times.

It would have been nice to see digital art included now that the price of the equipment more accessible. Digital art has additional benefits to traditional art methods in that the image can be modified relatively easy, duplicated and shared with ease. The inclusion of digital art could provide an additional dimension to a CBAT class, group or exercise.

I would like to extend my personal thanks to Leah Guzman for gifting me a new perspective on a familiar subject. This author deserves your support.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


I would like to thank Leah Guzman, NetGalley, and Rockridge Press for affording me the opportunity to review Essential Art Therapy Exercises: Effective Techniques to Manage Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD.

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