• Kiri Lester-Hodges

Emotional Intelligence & Art Therapy




Emotional intelligence is a term coined and popularized in the early 1990s, and is defined as “the ability, capacity, skill, or self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups” (Serrat, 2017). The concept has been used across many different contexts, including understanding good leadership skills in the workplace, aptitude for working in the helping professions, and resilience in the face of adversity and stress.

Prioritizing and improving emotional awareness can:

⁃ Allow for awareness of one’s own feelings, including those that are difficult to experience or have been repressed

⁃ Promote a better understanding of and compassion for the self and of others

⁃ Increase ability to regulate emotions, which can help people to stay present

Art therapy relies on the many different facets of the creative process, often using visual art, to achieve various goals like connecting to the unconscious, promoting creativity through play, and increasing understanding of the landscape of the self. Since art therapy uses non-verbal communication through art-making to express and understand feelings, it could contribute to an increase in emotional intelligence. Furthermore, getting to experience using different art materials and techniques such as wood carving, playing with clay, or weaving can help people to learn new ways to regulate their emotions. Since art therapy can clearly interact with the concept of emotional intelligence, here is an idea through an art therapy lens that can help you practice some of the skills involved, such as self-awareness, self-regulation, and compassion and awareness for the emotions of others.

Step 1: Identify 3-4 key emotions that you have felt in the last week. For each emotion, choose a corresponding color.

Step 2: Create a form to represent each emotion with their corresponding colors. These forms can be characters, symbols, or abstract shapes.

Step 3: Around each form, write down several words or phrases that you would associate with each of the emotions.

Step 4: After you have made these initial depictions of your 3-4 emotions, repeat the first three steps, but this time through the lens of how


other people might have perceived you experiencing those emotions.

Step 5: Step back and reflect on the differences and similarities between your own experience of these emotions, how you have depicted their characters or forms, and how other people see them happening in you.

Identifying the color, shape, and overall character of emotions that you have recently felt can help you better understand your specific lived experience of these emotions, as they can vary from person to person. When you have a better understanding of emotions that you regularly experience, it can increase the possibility of creating more self-awareness when experiencing those emotions in the future. Furthermore, when imagining how other people understand or interpret your experience of your emotions, it creates opportunities to zoom out and take into consideration the experiences of others, which can help to promote compassion for yourself and for others.


By: Kiri Lester-Hodges

Creative Arts Therapy Intern


Serrat O. (2017) Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence. In: Knowledge Solutions. Springer, Singapore.


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