Intro to Art Journaling 

   Art Journaling has a long history in the field of art therapy, particularly as an approach as a form of stress reduction. The “altered book” approach has been used to enhance visual journaling for the benefits of self-expression, mental health and well-being.

   An altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into something different, altering its appearance or intended meaning. The book itself can be cut, collaged, painted or otherwise changed or transformed in some way. These alterations often incorporate the book’s text and/or illustrations; in fact, you can simply use a felt marker or pen to highlight certain words or phrases, creating quotes, narrative and poetry. Using the words or illustrations on the pages allow you to be free form the "blank page mind block" that often deters us from ever allowing ourselves to attempt expression through the arts. Using what is already printed on the page allows us an ample amount of inspiration - a word bank of possibility. The basis of art journaling relies on imperfection and experimentation. There is no skill or art mastery required or expected. 

"The only job of the artist is to express

their internal life" - Kandinsky

   From an art therapy perspective, creatively altering a book can be a form of rewriting one’s life story through visual journaling. It is similar to the process of narrative therapy, but taking the approach a step further through redefining the story through not only words, but also images.


   Harriet Wadeson, a well-known art therapist, author and researcher, applied altered book journaling to her own struggles with cancer and describes the experience in her book, Journaling Cancer in Words and Images. Wadeson refers to the process as an “altered book for an altered life;” in her case, it is a life profoundly changed by a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments and challenges. Her altered book contains not only images of pain, suffering and the realities of illness and treatment, but also beauty, inspiration and transformation in words and symbols.

A Monthly Art Therapy Workshop, developed and lead by Krista Wanous, MA ATR-P