As children reach their teen years, parents often struggle to understand and relate to them. Kids today are pressured to ‘grow up’ as quickly as possible and partake in adult activities such as drinking and trying out drugs. They are bombarded with media and struggle to meet the expectations of their peers. Teens suffering from substance abuse may fear the stigma of attending traditional psychotherapy and refuse help. Art therapy offers a way for teens to get the help they need without feeling threatened or embarrassed. Here at Destinations for Teens, we understand that adolescents and young adults require treatments specifically designed for them. Therefore, we offer a wide range of teen mental health treatments, among which art therapy is prominent.
A History of Art Therapy
Since the beginning of society, people have used art to express their thoughts and feelings in ways more powerful and perhaps more revealing than speech. Art helps us learn, grow, and connect with those around us. It is an excellent way to express and explore one’s emotions and feelings. Also, it allows individuals to create objects they can then examine and use to come to understand why they are thinking or feeling the way they are.
When paired with traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy, art brings out our deepest desires, fears, and regrets, enabling us to come to terms with our troubles.
How Does Art Therapy Work?
There are as many approaches to art therapy as there are forms of art. Most art therapy programs involve asking the teen to sketch or paint their thoughts and feelings. They may:
- Sculpt an object out of clay
- Make a collage from magazine and newspaper clippings
- Build crafts using various art supplies
- Use other materials to craft an art piece
Releasing Inaccessible Emotions
The therapist never analyzes the creations and instead encourages the teen to offer his own thoughts and critiques. Art therapy gives adolescents an outlet to release the emotions inaccessible through verbal inquiry.
By bringing the underlying problems to the surface, art therapy helps the teen recognize and distance himself from them. In turn, the therapist can better work with the teen to discover effective solutions.
Art Therapy vs. Traditional Therapy
As children approach adulthood, they may distrust authority and question the validity of structured programs. This can make it difficult for them to benefit from traditional cognitive behavioral therapy.
Because art facilitates creativity and self-expression at heart, teens don’t view it as an adult mechanism designed to correct or change their behavior. Rather, art puts them in control without pressure or stigma.
Art therapy rooms are filled with supplies with which teens can express their bottled-up feelings without rules or guidelines.
A Higher Level of Understanding
A person’s art speaks volumes about his current and past struggles. Therapists can deduce valuable information from drawings, collages, and sculptures while refraining from making guesses in the presence of the teen.
Every teenager is different and will reveal the underlying meaning behind their art at their own pace. Because the therapist stays neutral and doesn’t try to pry into the teen’s life, he facilitates a natural outpouring of thoughts and feelings and helps establish genuine trust.
A Non-Threatening Way to Cope
Through its openness and adaptability, art therapy offers a non-threatening way for adolescents to manage their difficulties. It helps them:
- Distance themselves from their suffering
- Develop healthy coping mechanisms
- Open their minds to new methods of expression
The indirect nature of art therapy allows therapists to understand the issue without embarrassing or stressing out the teen. It also builds trust and helps the teen, and the therapist develop a strategy for recovery together.