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Art Therapy with Children Article

Children have real fears and anxieties, and can be deeply affected by loss and change. They have overwhelming feelings and can be dealing with disruption and fragmentation in their lives. They may feel trapped by worries, withdrawn and isolated. Expressing problems makes them less powerful in the mind.

In the sessions, children are encouraged to explore difficult feelings through art making, using play and experimenting with art materials. Through the art, children can express things that they are struggling with. A child is given the opportunity to act out their concerns and inner conflicts in a safe environment. Art making is one way that a child can interact with and understand their environment.

Art Therapy objectives include: to enhance the child’s emotional health, to sustain the child’s belief in a more positive future, give them the opportunity to feel valued, and help restore trust. Art therapy can help the child develop healthy coping skills and focus. It stimulates imagination and creativity, increases self-esteem and confidence, and helps children develop spontaneity and flexibility. Art Therapy can also reduce anxiety and help foster self-awareness. Art Therapy aims to identify vulnerable children, tackle social inclusion, reduce disruptive behaviours and prevent problems later in life. It leads to emotional and cognitive growth and aids in healthy development. The art process aids in building problem-solving skills and coping mechanisms.

 

Art Therapy and education are complimentary and can have a successful partnership. Society increasingly recognises the vulnerability of children and the need for therapists to work in schools. Children today are challenged by an array of concerns that directly and indirectly affect their educational progress. Art Therapy can help children improve their school functioning.

Art therapists are equipped to help children explore their problems and develop pathways for learning that may not be accessible through traditional methods of
instruction and intervention.

A child’s overall functioning is affected when they are experiencing problems in their personal lives. Difficulties and emotional distress may be manifested through behaviour problems. It also affects the child’s social interactions, which are a big part of normal development and healthy functioning. Their inclusion in school life will be affected. By working through issues in Art Therapy the child may be enabled to better relate with peers, teachers and family.

Teachers are faced with a significant number of children with special needs who require additional support. Teachers see the emotions and behaviours of children in their care, and they get information from the home. Teachers are in a unique position to provide referrals.

Children who may particularly benefit are those:

  • Experiencing emotional difficulties
  • Experiencing behavioural difficulties
  • Struggling with social and communication difficulties
  • Dealing with stressful life events such as illness, bereavement, changes in family structure and changes in environment
  • Who have experienced traumas such as domestic violence, abuse, neglect
  • With learning difficulties or underachieving at school
  • With physical difficulties
  • With attachment issues
  • At risk of school exclusion

Group art therapy can help to make the experience of attending therapy a less threatening one. The rationale for group therapy is to provide peer support and the normalisation of uncomfortable feelings. The group becomes a safe and supportive haven, giving children a feeling of belonging. The group can be a social microcosm and it can also act as a reconstruction of a family unit. Group work draws attention to behaviour patterns. Group members can use each other to work out feelings within  family or peer relationships, as well as to gain feedback about their own interactions. Children also learn to tolerate difference as well as become aware of their similarities.

Conclusion
Art therapy is a healing profession, with the ethos that all children can be helped and  supported, based on the principles of care and love. In Art Therapy the child’s worries and emotions are valued, and they learn to know their own worth. Art Therapy is important for growth and well-being. It has many benefits and is helpful at all stages of development to support many different kinds of children with a variety of issues and presenting problems. Art Therapy can reach children who often appear unreachable.  It provides a safe space to explore and express thoughts and feelings. Art therapy is extremely versatile and effective.