PART II Talent and Career Explored Using Journaling and Art Therapy Techniques

By Dean Pappas

In Part I, a holistic approach to career planning, which includes both analytical and intuitive (left- and right-brain thinking), was outlined. Part II consists of two sample exercises which incorporate visual, non-linear thinking into career planning assessment and strategizing. In doing so they assist a client with self-exploration of creative talents and professional aspirations. Through personal experimentation with these and other nonverbal exercises the career development professional becomes capable of offering the client alternative guidance which can reveal non-analytically-based insights.

In two art therapy-based texts, "Putting Your Talent to Work" (1996) and "Visioning" (2000), art therapist Lucia Capacchione has developed a combination of art and journaling exercises designed to reveal latent career aspirations along with strategies to implement them. Capacchione's exercises assist the client in gaining insight into hidden talents and career-goals through dominant and non-dominant journaling, which are self-dialogue techniques. The goal is for the client to access her or his imagination, visualization and metaphoric thought, thus bridging the left and right hemispheres (Capacchione and Van Pelt, 2000). A partial list of issues Capacchione addresses include: a) identifying talent, b) developing talent, and, c) matching talent to needs. "Visioning" (2000), on the other hand, focuses on the single task of creating and using a Visioning7 collage. Below are two examples of exercises I have developed base on Capacchione's work.

Basic materials include: (a) a medium-to-large art pad (9x12 or 11x14), and multicolored set of felt markers, colored pencils, oil pastels, and/or crayons for Exercise 1; and, (b) magazines, scissors and glue-sticks for Exercise 2. Other materials may be included, depending on the choice of individual or group exercises, personal preferences, or other art experiences.

Exercise 1: "The Ideal Career"

Directive: With your non-dominant hand, draw a picture of yourself as you see yourself in the ideal job or career. In your drawing include where you are, what you are doing, and if you are alone or with others. On a fresh page, with your dominant hand create a list of questions such as:

  • Where is this job location?
  • What are my specific tasks?
  • How do I feel about myself and my work?
  • What talents and skills am I expressing?
  • Who am I working with?

Answer the question with your non-dominant hand in a journal.
(Note: Non-dominant handwriting can feel awkward at first, with misspelled words and letters written backwards. Part of the experience is to enjoy the "child within" and to let go of self-judgment).

When a client completes drawing, assist in the journaling process by initiating and reciting questions that move the dialogue forward. The task of the counselor is to provide insight as well as feedback while assisting the client to create the dialogue. By initiating questions the counselor triggers in the client's own ability for further self-exploration into personal insights.

A sample dominant- and non-dominant handwritten dialogue (use different colored markers to differentiate the writing of each hand):

Dominant Hand: "Do I like freelance, consulting or individual assignments?"
Non-dominant Hand: "I like consulting, because I value my independence."
Dominant Hand: "Do I feel better working alone or in a team?"
Non-dominant Hand: "I feel more qualified when I work with one other person or on a team."

While these sample-responses are abbreviated, the professional career counselor can easily expand upon them. The strength of this process is that it empowers the client by providing visual, concrete evidence of the client's own creativity and inner inspiration. A client's habit to rely on outside sources to validate their unique abilities perpetuates dependence and an unwillingness to own their personal generative powers.

Exercise 2: "Visioning" for a career:

Directive: Create a collage, beginning with the vision of the ideal career in mind. Cut out images and words from magazines and other sources, and pile them in front of you. The collage provides the story board where plot lines can be played out, revised and experienced. Arrange all the images and words on the collage board and edit them before gluing any down. Once the collage is completed, through a dialogue with the dominant and nondominant hands (as described in Exercise 1), dialogue with each key element or image in the collage to give it its own voice. Examples of questions include:

  • What part of my life does the collage image express?
  • How does this collage image represent my ideal career?
  • What instructions, guidance or advice does this collage image have for me?

The results derived from these two sample-exercises, as well as many others offered by Capacchione (1996, 2000), are to reinforce the client's self-confidence in their own intuitive processes. Clients are encouraged to trust their own ability to find direction, motivation, and awareness with regard to their career goals. Nonverbal, non-traditional resources are tools capable of revealing unexpressed and hidden agendas often not uncovered via traditional testing and coaching methods.


Capacchione, L., & Van Pelt, P. (1996). Putting your talent to work. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.

Capacchione, L. (2000). Visioning. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Dean Pappas (M.A. in Art Therapy, California State University, Los Angeles) lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He works primarily with at-risk adolescents, providing therapy, coaching and life-skills training, including a focus on career and long-term life goals. He also provides coaching through artmaking processes to assist families focus on family goals as a unit. He can be reached at d28pappas@msn.com .

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