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And also like play, art created within the context of a therapeutic relationship is intended to help young clients not only to engage in self-exploration, it also involves purposeful meaning-making through specific art making. Child art therapy is also often confused with play therapy and for many good reasons. Art making within the context of therapy is, however, a slightly different experience from play because it encourages the creation of a tangible product in most cases.

Non-Verbal, Sensory-Based.

What to Expect in Art Therapy

By its simplest definition, art expression is a form of non-verbal communication. For children who may not be able to articulate thoughts, sensations, emotions or perceptions, it is one way to convey what may be difficult to express with words. It is also a sensory-based approach that allows the children to experience themselves and communicate on multiple levels—visual, tactile, kinesthetic and more—and to not only be heard [talk], but also be seen via images [art]. Growth and Development.

Art Therapy Helps Children Cope with Trauma

Art expressions, particularly drawings, provide useful information on development in children, especially young clients who are 10 years or younger. Despite this challenge, the currently accepted stages of artistic development, especially with younger children, are still generally helpful and add valuable information not always apparent through talk therapy alone. Neurobiology continues to inform mental health professionals about why specific art-based activities, within the context of therapy, may be helpful to children.

In particular, certain sensory characteristics of art making seem to be effective in improving mood, sensory integration, and calming the body and mind, especially with children who have experienced traumatic events.

Like play therapy, art therapy provides an opportunity to express metaphor through art expression. In fact, one of the strengths of both approaches is their ability to encourage and enhance storytelling and narratives. Storytelling about a drawing, painting, collage or construction does not have to be literal to be therapeutic.

In fact, a child who has experienced traumatic events or is challenged by an emotional disorder may only find it possible to generate imaginative stories. With the support and guidance of the therapist, these narratives serve as a way to slowly and safely release disturbing or terrorizing experiences.

Art therapy may help kids with behavior problems

Right-Hemisphere-to-Right Hemisphere. In this sense, art therapy can be helpful in repairing and reshaping attachment through experiential and sensory means and may tap those early relational states that existed before words are dominant, allowing the brain to establish new, more productive patterns. Art expression, like play, adds to these positive relational experiences on multiple levels involving sensory, affective and cognitive channels of communication. This a very brief explanation of some of the reparative dynamics art therapy provides to children. But as the fields of art therapy and play therapy continue to expand knowledge about their effectiveness, the more we extend the possibilities for best practices with all children in need of help and healing.

Visit the Trauma-Informed Practices and Expressive Arts Therapy Institute for more information about expressive arts therapy with children, adults and families and educational offerings on trauma-informed expressive arts therapy.

Child art psychotherapy in CAMHS: Which cases are referred and which cases drop out?

Art therapy is a way for your child to express his or her feelings through creativity. Some of the many other benefits include:.


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I am inspired daily by the ways in which patients and families use creative expression to find their courage, overcome obstacles, celebrate their unique cultures, and share the stories of their lives. It is an honor to bring the gift of art making to patients and families at Bronson Methodist Hospital. Art therapists follow the standards, practices, policies and procedures of the Art Therapy Credentials Board. For more information about art therapy, visit the American Art Therapy Association website.

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