A Window into Art Therapy with Children

Art therapy is a licensed mental health profession. It combines both psychology and art to evaluate and treat people of all ages and abilities. Art
therapy can be beneficial in individual sessions and in groups, depending on the needs of the client. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on art therapy with children and adolescents and give a very brief explanation as to what art therapy is, who could benefit, and how treatment is informed.

Art Therapy provides children with a creative modality in which to express themselves. It can help children with developmental, cognitive, and emotional growth. Art therapy can also help children with social skills, communication, sensory regulation and integration, anxiety, and self expression. The natural creativity of a child makes art therapy a great treatment option.

The combination of both visual and verbal expression gives children more opportunities to communicate. When a child struggles with language, colors and symbols can be used as a non-verbal language and way of relating to the therapist. Art can facilitate emotional growth by being a natural container for emotions, a natural outlet for emotions, and a place to release impulses. The inherent qualities of art making provide a client with choice and freedom of self expression.

When seeing a new client, the art therapist begins by using both the art process and the product to evaluate the child’s motor, cognitive, and social skills. The therapeutic relationship is very important and is established during the first session and continues through the course of treatment. After an initial session, the art therapist creates goals based on the child’s abilities and challenges. In each session, the child’s goals and their current presentation help the art therapist choose appropriate art materials and directives for that session. Some materials that might be used during an art therapy session range from something that requires very few steps like crayons and paper to something advanced requiring multiple steps like designing and creating a clay sculpture. Each art therapy session is a new opportunity to grow and learn!