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Tangling Journeys from an Art Therapist

Tangling Journeys from an Art Therapist

Paige Scheinberg, MS, ATR-BC, CZT writes....

I remember the moment I discovered Zentangle®. I was sitting at a computer at my first art therapy internship in graduate school feeling totally overwhelmed and anxious about entering the mental health field and working with people with severe and chronic mental illness. During my short breaks between facilitating art therapy groups and seemingly endless documentation, I would often search for inspiration for new, engaging art processes that could help my clients meet their treatment goals. On this fated day, I unexpectedly discovered an image that was filled with incredible patterns that weaved in and out of each other with such beauty and intricacy. Yet, as I stayed with this image, I imagined how these patterns could be broken down into simple lines and shapes so that almost anyone could make them. After some quick research, I pleasantly discovered that this was exactly what the Zentangle Method is all about – guiding people through a simple, relaxing drawing process that also invites gratitude, acceptance, and creative fun. While beautiful art is often a product of Zentangle, it was really all about the process – just like in art therapy. I couldn’t help but think how meaningful and engaging this could be to share in art therapy sessions – and how much I would enjoy it, too!



In art therapy, we have a saying – “Don’t ask anyone to try or create anything you haven’t experienced or created yourself.” This is especially important as a mental health professional, because people can have drastically different experiences with a creative process depending on their cognitive, physical, and emotional health, past experiences with materials, and even the amount of time given to create (to name just a few considerations). Lucky for me, that has meant I’ve spent years exploring the Zentangle Method through a variety of materials and approaches to better understand what my clients’ potential sensory, cognitive, emotional, and creative experiences would be through different materials, tile designs, and projects.

And, the patterns – oh, how I love the original Zentangle patterns! From the initial process of creating patterns with clients to spending some time observing them afterwards, tangle patterns have become an abundant source of metaphor and symbolism for so many. After some initial reflection and questions, Zentangle patterns have lead my clients and me to many meaningful discussions about navigating life transitions, coping with change, cultivating strengths, savoring the good, and even understanding and influencing brain changes.



One of my first – and most memorable and affirming – experiences with tangling in an art therapy group was with a client in a forensics unit in a state hospital. After living on the unit for a number of years, this young man had experienced art therapy with many art therapists and explained, “I’ve done it all. I’m not really interested anymore.” He occasionally attended groups briefly, but often complained of headaches (likely a part of his auditory hallucinations) and preferred to be alone and walk around the unit for most of the day. While I still felt new to the Zentangle Method, I figured I’d give it a try – what did we have to lose? I told our group I was still learning how to tangle and that we’d discover this process together. That day, this restless young man not only came to the session, but stayed and created the entire group. As we continued to tangle in the weeks to come, his engagement continued, however, his headaches and anxiety seemed to disappear during our groups. He even took on a leadership role in the group for a few sessions, picking out a pattern, practicing it, and then guiding our group through the creative process.

After one of these groups with him, I found myself at my computer again searching for Zentangle, but this time, I emailed Rick and Maria. I told them about my work as a new art therapist and how empowering, relaxing, and effective I was finding the Zentangle Method – and asked what I could do to get more involved. As fate would have it, a spot unexpectedly opened in the CZT training a few months later – and I’ve been finding ways to incorporate my love and enthusiasm for Zentangle into my work as a mental health professional ever since.

From schools and hospitals to museums and people’s homes, I’ve found the Zentangle Method to help people reduce anxiety and stress, increase focus and motivation, improve self-concept, mood, and motor skills, feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, and peace, and build connections with others and their creative selves. It brings me such joy to know that all of this is accessible to so many at almost anytime. All you really need is a square piece of paper, a pen, and a focus on the process – and, of course, our breath, gratitude, and an invitation to our other dear Bijousims.


These days, you can most often find me offering Zentangle at an adult outpatient cancer center as part of an array of services that I offer through our Integrative Oncology Division. By integrating the Zentangle Method into art therapy and mindfulness sessions, I have been able to help cancer survivors and caregivers relax during infusion treatments, stay grounded during life transitions, explore creativity and problem-solving, and even feel joy and peace while healing from treatment, in the hospital, or processing the unexpected. As a mental health professional, I have also found the Zentangle Method to be invaluable for my own creativity and well-being. It’s not uncommon for me to grab a piece of paper and a pen for some tangling between sessions to feel the benefits of my own creative, compassionate moments of breath, appreciation, ease, and enjoyment.

IG / FB @shineonwithpaige

SHINEONconsulting.com

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Thank you to all who shared your thoughts on our last blog, Tangling Your Own Conclusions. We have randomly selected Eileen Larsen to receive a new Zentangle MantraBand! Please send your snail mail address to julie@zentangle.com.

Bijou

30 comments

  • Paige was my Zentangle teacher for a couple of years. I’m so proud of all she has accomplished — and will accomplish!

    Carol Levy on

  • A few years ago I was told that being an art therapist would be my perfect job, I never knew there was such a thing! At 60, I have been a hairdresser for 40 years now, I guess that was the “other” version of that work.

    Art is so incredibly important in life and it has been my personal goal to expose people to art in all of it’s forms. It’s amazing to see how many adults think that they cannot make art. I found Neurographic art and Zentangle in the same week, and I combine the two. I have shared them both with more people than I could count.
    Your account here, shows how very important this all is, as art is an unspoken language where real healing that can take place, which is priceless. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
    When I first heard Rick and Maria explaining how this all came to be, I was so happy to hear that someone wanted to make these beautiful forms accessible to everyone. It’s absolutely marvelous beyond words.

    Lore Murdock on

  • Paige, I enjoyed your personal journey and story for so many reasons! I too work in the mental health field at our local hospital. I have been trying for years to convince our administration to let me implement Zentangle somehow into our programs. Your story gives me hope that it will happen! I also find it so rewarding that you were teaching and sharing the Zentangle art method, before you were certified! I have read so many negative comments in the past, about people teaching Zentangle before they were certified. Not everyone can get certified right away…and as long as they are following the wonderful method that Rick and Maria put in place 19 years ago…I say go for it! After all, it is about sharing this incredible art method with the world and most needy!! Kudos to you for all you have accomplished, and for the future happiness you will bring to your patients. Fondly, Kim VanZyll CZT 16

    Kim VanZyll on

  • lovely to hear another story about how it can slip into healing

    ildica Boyd on

  • I tangled all through my chemotherapy sessions two years ago.

    Grey Walker on

  • Thanks for the great story. I am a Retired Art Therapist and was happy to hear the great impact ZEN TANGLE has as an intervention to help clients. I used ZEN TANGLE WITH DUAL DIAGNOSIS AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE CLIENTS AND FOUND IT A GREAT CALMING TOOL AS WELL HELPING CLIENT FOCUS AND GAIN SELF CONFIDENCE AND AWARENESS.

    SHEILA RYAN 5/21

    Sheila Ryan on

  • What a wonderful story. I love hearing about your experiences helping people heal through Zentangle. I appreciate your sharing how it has been helpful in both your careers.

    LynnSenn on

  • An inspiring read – her interest in the Zentangle Method for both herself n her clients. Proof in life!

    Nancy on

  • Empowering story! Thanks for sharing it. 😊🌈😊

    Rimona Gale on

  • This story is so touching. I am also a CZT and have seen transformation in adults who had not taken to other art forms before. Thank you so much for sharing Paige! 🥰

    Kathy Y. on

  • Thank you for sharing your journey, lovely story.

    Linda Rios on

  • While I cannot call myself an art therapist, I, too, can see the healing nature of the Zentangle Method. My most precious feedback was from a friend with Stage 4 cancer who told me as I was leaving, “I haven’t thought of cancer in the last hour and a half. Thank you.”

    Linda M Dochter on

  • Reading your story has inspired me even further. Maybe after becoming a CZT I will go further and become a qualified art therapist. Who knows how far this branch of my life will take me.

    Hayley Billington on

  • What a beautiful story, helping people to survive in sad times. And the power of Zentangle doesn’t need to be told, it shows. Respect to you Paige.

    Irene Lammerse on

  • How beautiful that you found the Zentangle Method as a graduate student. Your patients are blessed to have you share this. Zentangle was my lifeline during a long slow physical and mental healing process. It truly makes a difference in one’s life.

    Mary Margaret Yahnke on

  • Thank you for sharing your Zentangle Thearapist story with all of us! When I am tangling a tile I feel at peace and I become very relaxed and it is so much fun to teach!!! CZT-32 May 20,2022

    Julie Crosby on

  • Thank you for sharing your Zentangle Thearapist story with allot us! When I am tangling a tile I feel at peace and I become very relaxed and it is so much fun to teach!!! CZT-32 May 20,2022

    Julie Crosby on

  • What a wonderfully inspirational story. I love that from the moment of introduction, it is clear how powerful Zentangle will be and is.

    Roslyn Badcock on

  • What a wonderfully inspirational story. I love that from the moment of introduction, it is clear how powerful Zentangle will be and is.

    Roslyn Badcock on

  • Art therapy is such a great place for Zentangle! As a retired occupational Therapist, I rather wish I had known Zentangle when I was working. Both in the schools & the nursing homes where I worked, focus, relaxation, & fine motor skills would all benefit. Another benefit I can see is that of gaining self-confidence.

    Sue Cutter on

  • Thank you so much for sharing how impactful Zentangle has been in your practice! Once I learned about the method and its focus on gratitude and mindfulness, I was hooked. The opportunities for healing are the often- unsung gifts of this practice.

    Alisa Anderson on

  • Zentangle is my go to method of relaxation. Stress and anxiety sometimes hits me hard. The only solution for me is Zentangle. I go to YouTube and search for my favorite teachers it works wonderful. Thanks 😊

    Miriam Martinez on

  • Zentangle is my go to method of relaxation. Stress and anxiety sometimes hits me hard. The only solution for me is Zentangle. I go to YouTube and search for my favorite teachers it works wonderful. Thanks 😊

    Miriam Martinez on

  • I love hearing how Zentangle is helping to ease pain and suffering. Bravo and thank you for your work in the world.

    Meg Steele on

  • I am so happy when I find mind, body and spirit connecting and coexisting at one time.

    The bonus of science to back up the dynamics of this fusion at once is what draws me to Zentangle. Thank you for helping so many with mental challenges and the desire to be sane for even a moment.

    Ann Hatcher on

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