Here, we will explain how crafts for psychiatric patients can be helpful in therapeutic and cathartic ways. We will also describe seven such craft projects that patients with psychiatric illnesses can try out for therapeutic recreation.
What Crafts are Good for Psychiatric Patients?
Here are some creative crafts for psychiatric patients that involve art therapy techniques and are a lot of fun:
- Soothing Box/Bag
- Rolling Pin Art
- Scrapbooking/Collage Making
- Containment Shoe Box
- Thought Trash Can
- From Ashes to Beauty
How can Craft Help a Psychiatric Patient?
Craft activities are extremely useful for all individuals to manage their behaviours and outbursts. For psychiatric patients, these can be designed to help process feelings, increase self-esteem, and reduce levels of anxiety and stress.
What’s best about art therapy techniques is that they allow self-discovery by helping acknowledge feelings in the subconscious. They also provide a healthy outlet for negative thoughts and feelings.
Lastly, since most of these crafts require following instructions and working together, they help patients in making social connections and building trust. Overall, crafts for psychiatric patients are an excellent way to improve functioning and wellbeing.
Try These Craft Projects for Psychiatric Patients
Now that we’ve discussed the various benefits of craft projects for psychiatric patients, let’s explore some useful projects that are designed for this specific purpose.
This activity aims to create a grounding resource that patients can turn to in times of distress. The box or bag is meant to contain items that elicit positive sensory experiences to reorient them to the present.
For patients dealing with trauma, it’s usual to have flashbacks or overwhelming and intrusive memories of the past. In times like these, they can open their soothing box/bag and ground themselves into their present safe reality.
- A box or bag
- Pictures or postcards that bring joy
- Perfume, scented objects, or cotton balls with essential oils
- An item with a texture or structure that feels good to touch or squeeze
- An item that makes a sound you enjoy (optional)
- Self-care items like lotion, grooming products, colouring books etc.
- Decorations and stationery
Patients are asked to decorate their box or bag to make it personally appealing. This is extremely subjective so the patient gets to decide what the box/bag should look like. Then, they place all the items in the list inside the box/bag.
The idea is to have grounding tools ready at hand to use your sensory inputs to calm down and feel peaceful. You can even create stickers as reminders to drink water, try some breathing techniques, and motivational quotes. After going through these items, the patient is likely to feel less distressed and possibly neutral.
Rolling Pin Art
Expressing your feelings in colours is a beautiful way to induce catharsis. Doing it in creative and novel ways that engage your body makes it a more wholesome experience. The rolling pin art activity is a perfect craft project for psychiatric patients and anyone who needs to release some steam.
- Non-toxic paint
- Large white paper
- A rolling pin
Give the patient a sheet of white paper and ask them to drop a few blots of paint. Let them choose which colours they want to use to avoid any kind of triggering. Next, fold the paper in half and use the rolling pin over the folded paper several times.
They get to choose which direction to move the paint and with how much pressure. When satisfied with the amount of rolling, unfold the paper to reveal the art. Once dry, hang it up and invite a discussion.
The aim of this craft is to allow patients to discover how creative they can be while providing an opportunity for physical movements. In the discussion, the painting can be whatever they want it to be.
This is another fun activity that provides opportunities for physical movement. Firstly, it involves exploring indoors or outdoors, looking for objects that can be used as stamps. An ideal object would be something with a flat surface on one side where the pain will be applied.
It can also be something with a texture that forms an interesting shape, for example, the bottom of a plastic bottle can form flowers when used as a stamp.
Secondly, patients get an opportunity to exercise fine motor skills as they use the curated stamps to create a picture.
- Non-toxic paint
- A plastic dish or palette to place the paint in
- The items collected to use as stamps
- White or coloured sheets of paper
Once the patients have explored around to look for potential stamps, they are given paints and a dish-like-object to pour the paint in. Next, they have to dip the flat or textured side of the object into the paint and press it onto the paper.
It’s up to them how they want the composition to look like and which colours to use. When the pictures are dry, hang them up and invite a discussion.
Scrapbooking and collage making are excellent craft projects for psychiatric patients dealing with memory issues. It helps them form momentos of past events that were special to them.
This activity can also be used to reaffirm the patient’s identity. Mental illness often blurs one’s sense of identity. Doing an activity like this can help patients remember who they are and what they like about themselves.
- Old magazines
- Old photographs
- A scrapbook or large sheet of mountboard
- Rounded scissors
- Decorative items
The patients are asked to look through the magazines and pictures to find images that resonate with them. They can even cut out symbols and letters from the magazines if they like the font.
Patients are told that they can create anything that they like, which helps them feel more like themselves and to remember who they are.
Containment Shoe Box
Containment refers to putting away thoughts, feelings, or images, allowing you to feel safe and to get things done without being distracted. This is done temporarily till the individual has the right resources to deal with the mental content, which they might find in a psychotherapy session.
The containment shoe box activity is a way to physically manifest this process.
- A shoe box
- Decorative items
The patients are instructed to design the outside of the box in any way they like as long as it makes them feel joyful or at peace. They can paint it, paste on decorations, motivational quotes, and pictures of things they like.
On the inside, they must design it to look like a place of absolute calm and serenity. For some patients, this could be a solid colour of their choice. Others might like to doodle or stick flowers, geometrical figures, etc.
The purpose of this activity is to have a containment box to vent distressing mental content into and store them temporarily till the patient is ready to handle it in a healthy and resourceful way.
Thought Trash Can
This craft project is similar to the containment box, except that its meant for permanent discard and not temporary storage.
- A cylindrical container with a lid if possible
- Non-toxic paints
- Strips of paper
The container has to be designed like a trash can. If the patients want, they can decorate their cans however they like. The idea is to create a rubbish bin for all the unhelpful thoughts that come to their mind.
Patients can write down each negative or unhelpful thought onto a strip of paper and dump it in the can. At the end of the day, they can dump the thoughts into a real trash can and never have to see them again.
From Ashes to Beauty
Most people struggling with a mental illness have often heard people mock them or use hurtful statements against them. This activity is meant to help them move past these negative comments that tend to play over and over in one’s head.
- A large sheet of paper
- Decorative items
The patients are asked to write down on the large sheet of paper any negative taunts, comments, slurs, or criticisms they have had to hear in their life. These can be anything that came to them from external sources and continue to hurt them today.
When they are done, ask them to take deep breaths and conduct a self-regulation exercise.
Next, the have to colour over the words and create something beautiful out of it. They can cover up the negative terms with more empowering ones. They can doodle over them to make something funny. They can even scribble all over and paste decorative items on top.
The agenda is to take all the nasty in their head and make something beautiful out of it. When everyone is done, have a discussion about how they feel.
Here, we explained how crafts for psychiatric patients can be helpful in therapeutic and cathartic ways. We also described seven such craft projects that patients with psychiatric illnesses can try out for therapeutic recreation.
The craft projects mentioned in this blog were Soothing Box/Bag, Rolling Pin Art, Stamping, Scrapbooking/Collage Making, Containment Shoe Box, Thought Trash Can, and From Ashes to Beauty.
FAQs (Crafts for Psychiatric Patients)
How is art therapy used for mental health?
Art therapy is generally used in addition to other therapeutic techniques to manage behaviors, process feelings, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase self-esteem. The purpose of art therapy is to help in expression and self-discovery.
Does crafting reduce stress?
Since crafting requires you to focus your attention and mental resources onto something aesthetic and relaxing, it helps reduce stress. It also gives you an opportunity to keep your hands and body busy so that you can release some of the extra energy produced during anxiety and stress.
How does creativity affect mental health?
Studies have found that creativity can improve mental health if you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or stress. It is also a highly effective way to process and heal from trauma. When you create art out of the things that hurt you, you feel much better.