Art Therapy for Relationship Stress

Many people seek help at Art Therapy Guelph for relationship struggles and stress. They are experiencing difficult shifts in relationships like separation, divorce, moving, abuse, betrayal and/or isolation. When people grow emotionally and spiritually, they may recognize many of their current relationships don’t serve them. They seek help because it is uncomfortable to unpack their grief, and feelings alone. There can be a grieving process when it has been a long-term relationship.

Research has shown that people who have a healthy social circle, tend to have increased longevity and improved mental and physical health. Relationships that are strained, abusive and unhealthy do the opposite. They impair one’s health and decrease longevity.[1] People may be unaware that certain relationships are unhealthy or abusive, especially if the relationship is a long-term one or it is family. That type of behaviour may be all they know. Various websites advocate for awareness of domestic violence and healthy versus non-healthy relationships.[2] People often are unaware that certain behaviours are abusive like threats, controlling finances, dramatic reactions, gossiping about or maligning someone, name-calling, giving the cold shoulder, confining and non-consensual touching. In unhealthy relationships, manipulating and controlling behaviours escalate when a person tries to set healthy boundaries.

Unhealthy relationships can make one feel depressed, anxious, betrayed, confused, drained and stressed. These feelings can be difficult to discuss openly because often people don’t understand. Art therapy is a great tool to unpack some of these emotions that are difficult to articulate.

Below is a piece of response art I made during supervision. I felt for a client who was working through her childhood and abuse. KB (pseudonym) felt sad when she recognized that one of her close relationships mirrored that of her abusive parents. Naturally, she had a lot of emotions to unpack surrounding letting go, her old and new perception of love and learning how to set healthy boundaries when necessary.

Blow Away Sister, Markers on Cardstock by Heather Caruso Art Therapy Guelph

[1] Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. Journal of health and social behavior, 51 Suppl(Suppl), S54–S66.

[2] Warning Signs of Abusive Relationships | Canadian Women's Foundation 


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