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The Art Therapy of Pinterest

Pinterest is much more than just a virtual corkboard...

Pinterest and post-it note

I have a long history of tearing out pictures from magazines, collecting images for art projects or ideas for fashion and home décor. Some of these go into files or large plastic storage bags [mind you, not necessarily in any particular category]. Every so often I have to do a “purge” and I either bring boxes of these clippings to the curb for recycle or take some of them to the clinic to add to the collage materials for future art therapy sessions. Then there is the virtual hoarding —all those links, digitally scrapbooked pictures or screen shots of images and articles that catch my fancy. I admit that I have a hard drive and a binder full of CDs full of digital illustrations and photographs. Honestly, I don’t really know what I actually have squirreled away.

So then Pinterest came along, providing yet another way to collect images and links of potential interest. Anyone who is on top of social media knows about Pinterest by now, but if you don’t, it is basically a way to collect, organize, display and share what you find on the web. You not only build your own “boards” of images, but also you can follow what others are collecting. In brief, Pinterest is a visual form of social media that connects people with similar interests through virtual scrapbooks that are accessible and viewable 24/7.

For art therapists and artists, these online collections are the mother lode of eye candy for inspiration, creativity and imagination. As an artist, if I need a particular image or photo of an object or concept, I can use the search engine to find just about anything. Some of the boards I follow are incredibly visually and aesthetically stunning; on its own, a specifically themed Pinterest board is infinitely more satisfying than flipping through a dozen of even the best magazines. If you don’t find your bliss in a particular board, you can re-pin and collect your own set of images from multiple boards [as an example, see my board “Because I Like It” to see what I find visually joyful]. When you click on any one image on a board, it automatically enlarges so you can enjoy it even more.

But maybe, in the social media wisdom of Betty White, this sounds like yet another incredible waste of energy. I admit that on some days I probably spend too much time in Pinterest La-La-Land, checking out my favorite boards and pinning and re-pinning pictures/links. But Pinterest has also influenced my art therapy practice in many unexpectedly positive ways. Here are some examples:

Psychoeducation for clients. A board I created on Arts, Art Therapy, Military and Veterans has

Screen Shot of Cathy Malchiodi's Pinterest

come in handy with returning military and their families. I now have a series of relevant links on one page that I can share with clients via my iPad, introducing them to resources and user-friendly information on treatment, research and arts-based Veterans’ groups.

Educational applications. Pinterest boards on Trauma-Informed Art Therapy, Trauma-Informed Practice, and Art Therapy and Positive Psychology are integrated into several distance learning courses I facilitate; because they are imbedded in the courses, learners get continuous updates and new links to information. In comparison to the usual reference lists, these Pinterest boards bring an additional dimension to participants because they are image-based. Additionally, several graduate degree programs I interact with now have boards that not only provide information on their faculty and courses, but also communicate the personality of their institution [see my colleagues at Southwestern College, for example].

Guided imagery and stress reduction. On a Mindfulness board I pin various YouTube films, MP3s and other sources of guided imagery that clients and I have found useful. I can easily access these protocols with a few clicks on an iPad, iPhone or computer during a session.

These are just a few ideas for how Pinterest can be integrated within therapy and education. Undoubtedly for most individuals, pinning and re-pinning leads to collecting the stuff personal dreams are made of, and at the very least, to a visually pleasurable diversion. But in the midst of all these dreams and diversions, there is also a pragmatic side to keeping a virtual scrapbook on a platform like Pinterest. It certainly has me returning to this social media platform to discover new possibilities for my art therapy practice and my clients.

Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC

© 2012 Cathy Malchiodi

And of course you can follow me on Pinterest at

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