Get Creative with Art Therapy!

With school back in session—well, almost—you may notice behavioral changes and sometimes even diet changes amongst your children. Sometimes our little loved ones have a hard time verbalizing their internal worries or struggles. Creative arts is a wonderful way for our children to express themselves. The creative process can be easily incorporated at home to help your child communicate their feelings or, when dealing with more challenging issues, integrated on a therapeutic level through working with a trained professional. This is known as art therapy. I have asked my colleague, Jen Kind-Rubin, to share with parents ways that we may do creative arts at home to help our kids and when we need to seek the assistance of a creative arts therapist.



Art Therapy with Children
By Jennifer Kind-Rubin, MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT
Licensed Creative Arts Therapist; Psychotherapist


Photo Credit: AFN-Pacific Hawaii News Bureau via Compfight cc

I think we can all agree that growing up isn’t easy! Children are just beginning to learn about themselves and the world and are still developing a language to communicate their unique feelings and experiences. Without sufficient words, kids often feel overwhelmed, and consequently may act out or withdraw in an attempt to feel understood. Many experts agree that engaging kids in creative activities, such as art, dance, music, and play can help with focus, coping skills, and behavioral issues. These types of activities can easily be incorporated into your home. Put together a portable art box, filled with crayons, paper, watercolors, markers, etc. Leave it out on the kitchen table after school, and encourage your kids to create an image of their day. Put on different types of music, and paint along to the beat. Get a stamp pad and have your child create images around his or her fingerprint, something unique only to him or her. Save your paper grocery bags to use for masks, cutting out the eyes and mouth, and transplant your child to a far-away land! Creativity accesses the part of the brain that controls our emotions, an area that children are still in the process of developing. When looking for more support for your child, try bringing them to a Creative Arts Therapist who is trained to facilitate this creative process. See below for some of the concerns that may lead you to pursue this outlet…

Research shows that art therapy has been used to successfully help children improve communication, increase self-awareness, decrease stress, develop closer relationships, improve mood, and decrease disruptive behaviors and attitudes. In addition to supporting children in dealing with everyday stressors, art therapy can be used as an intervention to support children in dealing with a number of other issues, including:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Grief/loss
  • Behavioral issues
  • Bullying
  • Childhood trauma
  • Fears or Phobias
  • Challenges of a physical illness or disability
  • Mental illness
Photo Credit: AFN-Pacific Hawaii News Bureau via Compfight cc

“Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages” (American Art Therapy Association, 2012). While talk therapy provides a setting for verbal communication, Art Therapy offers an opportunity to combine both verbal and non-verbal exploration. Children are intrinsically creative, so it is often easier for them to communicate through these means, versus struggling to meet an adult at their verbal level. This approach often feels less threatening, enabling the child to safely work through tough issues in a creative way. Makes sense, right?

So at this point you may be wondering what an art therapy session actually look like. Every Art Therapist is different, but often offices are stocked with a range of art materials, including paint, clay, crayons, pencils, etc. Typically the Art Therapist will provide the child with age-appropriate materials, setting up him or her to create. Often times the therapist will give a prompt to help begin this process. After the image is completed, the therapist and child will discuss the artwork, helping to provide insight and meaning. Through the use of symbolic language, underlying issues, patterns, and themes are often discovered and given the support they need. In giving the child’s creative imagery a voice, the therapist is also giving the child a voice, helping him or her to feel empowered and heard.

Jennifer Kind-Rubin, MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT
Licensed Creative Arts Therapist; Psychotherapist
80 East 11th Street, NYC

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