Mandalas and Wellness Wheels with Persons with Severe Mental Illness


  • Maryellen McAlevey Caldwell College


Art therapists who work with persons with severe mental illness (SMI) are often trained in a medical model which is deficit-based and founded on the concept of symptom reduction rather than being trained in a recovery model which is strengths-based and person-centered. Familiarity with wellness dimensions serves to remind art therapists that recovery from mental illness is achievable and is rooted in the principles of psychiatric rehabilitation. Furthermore, persons with mental illness are naturally drawn to artmaking as a method of recovery or symptom management. This paper familiarizes the reader with the symptoms and psychosocial stressors facing persons with SMI, provides a review of the literature supporting art therapy with persons with symptoms of psychiatric disorders, identifies individuals successfully recovering from severe mental illness, and highlights the concepts of recovery and wellness including the eight dimensions of wellness. This paper also offers case examples of mandalas and a wellness wheel created by persons with SMI during didactic art therapy sessions.