Art therapy is a tool many therapists use to help children work through their emotions in a safe way.
By Andrea Walker-Leidy
Sponsored by Viewpoint Psychology and Wellness
When children sit down to color, draw, or paint they aren’t thinking of the long-term benefits. They also aren’t thinking about their ability to create visually what they “see” in their minds. But, their little hands offer an insight into their minds, cognitive development and emotions, often used in therapy.
Whether as a form of communication, expression or simply used as a creative outlet, art takes many forms. The clinicians at Viewpoint Psychology and Wellness often use art in therapy as a way for clients, both children and adults, to express their emotions in a safe way.
“As therapists we are taught how to analyze and read a client’s drawings or painting and then help the client work through their emotions and thoughts through talk therapy,” says Dr. Melanie Schwartz, a licensed psychologist and owner of Viewpoint.
For young children, being exposed to art can help with many forms of development. Communication is often a part of music, reading and art activities, giving them a chance to learn how to understand what others are communicating and communicate back effectively. This can help to form language long before a child learns to talk. It can also develop skills such as organization and planning abilities, which are needed on a daily basis.
“Music and art can also be a bonding experience for families,” Schwartz says. “Just having parents show an interest in what their children are doing will encourage healthy communication. Asking questions about their interests and participating in activities with children when they’re younger helps families work together and show support for one another.”
Because art is one of the most innate activities for a child, Schwartz suggests that just putting materials in front of them will encourage self-expression. This expression will grow with them as they age and become a useful tool. Creative expression, and communication, become essential at any age as tools for connecting with others, sharing emotions and coping during difficult times.
“I also discuss with clients how art can be a coping strategy for them, or their children, at home as a way to destress, distract or express themselves,” Schwartz says. “Art therapy comes in many forms including writing, reading, drawing, coloring, photography and dance.”
Although the techniques and strategies of art have been the same for many years, the creativity and outlets may change. Therapists are now able to help clients use technology, programming, and creative-based apps to support art therapy and encourage creativity and expression in clients of all ages.
“Getting children involved in some form of art, whatever it may be, is an important step for them to creatively express themselves, and will become a coping strategy of sorts,” Schwartz says. “At my child’s preschools they are exposed to ceramics, dance, drawing and the list goes on and on. All of these help to develop those artistic and creative areas of the brain that will then foster cognitive growth.”
At any age, the benefits of art and creative expression can filter through all of life. From communication techniques to developing essential coping tools, art continues to play a pivotal role in daily growth, therapy and wellness strategies.
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