Mandalas in Art Psychotherapy
Mandala is a Sanskrit word for “circle”. Mandalas are found in every culture around the world and have important symbolic meaning. In art therapy, the creation of mandalas can be used in many ways.
Making mandalas can be a meditative practice, as is shown in Buddhism. There are specific geometric shapes symbolizing aspects of Buddhism. Erricker (1994) states, “at the center is our aspiration; the gates provide the ways to it that we must cultivate; and the outer circle encloses those habits and failings we must let go of in order to transform ourselves and to realize our full potential”.
Mandalas are also seen as containers in art therapy. Allowing anxiety, stress, and emotion to be released onto the page can feel safer and more freeing if done within a contained space. This can allow for the sense of separating oneself from the issues and viewing it from a distance. Creating mandalas can feel like the circle is able to hold the burden.
Carl Jung studied mandalas extensively and found that specific symbols within them can indicate many issues and themes of stages of life. It can be used for assessment purposes and give a snapshot of what is most central in the psyche. The mandala is a symbol of wholeness, the center. Mandalas allow for integration of difficult thoughts and feelings as well as integrating hidden or split off aspects of ourselves.
Creating mandalas in therapy or on your own can be extremely therapeutic. The simple task of tracing a circle and filling it in with line, shape, and color is easy and promotes integration and well-being, discovery and containment.
Erricker, Clive. (1994). “Making mandalas and meeting bodhisattvas: Raising awareness in religious education.” Religious Education, 89(1).