Few things in life have the power to stir our emotions and evoke compelling responses in the way art does. In all of its various forms, art is a powerful tool for expression. Through visual means, an artist is able to communicate and connect with others in a way that transcends words, and art therapy utilizes this connection to strengthen recovery.
The compelling quality of art makes it an incredibly useful tool in psychotherapy and counseling. Creative activities, in the form of art therapy, become a type of language that allows people to communicate thoughts and feelings that are too difficult or painful to put into words.
What Is Art Therapy?
The formal definition of art therapy is “the application of the visual arts and the creative process within a therapeutic relationship to support, maintain and improve the psychosocial, physical, cognitive and spiritual health of individuals of all ages.” Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that uses art and artistic mediums to help people explore thoughts and emotions in a unique way.
Art therapy is facilitated by a trained, qualified professional with knowledge of visual art—drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms—and the creative process and human development and counseling theories and techniques.
From the patient’s perspective, art therapy does not require experience or special talent. The work is not criticized or judged for its artistic quality, precision, or beauty. The methods used and the resulting artwork are more about the emotions expressed and felt throughout the process.
Helping Teens Express Themselves
The use of nonverbal expression can be especially beneficial for adolescents who are navigating the difficult waters of their teen years. Normal developmental changes, family tensions, and social challenges may be further complicated by symptoms of mental illness, which affects 20 percent of all youth ages 13-18.
Teens often see art therapy as a non-threatening form of treatment. The artwork they produce helps the therapist gain a better understanding of their concerns and life circumstances, especially those situations that are too risky to reveal or too embarrassing to talk about. This awareness better equips the therapist in efforts to protect and support them.
In art therapy, teens are able to express themselves in a context of gentle guidance that assists them in self-discovery and growth. The creative process helps them develop an understanding of their own inner voice, establish an identity, examine values and morals, question authority, and plan for the future.
Benefits of Art Therapy
The positive results of art therapy are broad-ranging and provide benefits for anyone wishing to learn more about themselves or explore the creative arts as a means of self-expression. But art therapy holds specific benefits for those suffering from a wide spectrum of mental illnesses.
Under the guidance of a trained expert, art therapy can help improve various mental and physical symptoms, bringing significant relief and promoting recovery from debilitating mental disorders. In addition to addressing specific symptoms, art therapy offers many general benefits, such as:
- Offering a non-threatening way to express inner feelings that can be difficult to put into words
- Fostering a feeling of being understood, relieving frustration
- Providing a safe outlet for feelings such as fear, guilt, pain, rage, and anger
- Gaining skills and a sense of achievement, providing ownership of successes
- Building trust, which is encouraged in a safe environment
- Increasing self-esteem and self-respect
- Developing objective perspectives on conditions, challenges or difficult life circumstances
- Experimenting with change that can be applied outside therapy
- Encouraging realization of existing personal strengths and the confidence to use them
- Improving social skills, especially for someone who may be withdrawn or shy
Addiction Treatment Programs
At Destinations for Teens, we believe in a holistic approach that is client-centered and customized to consider all aspects of mind, body, and spirit. Let our team of professionals guide your child through everything from residential treatment to alumni support that continues long after the end of successful therapy.
Keeping Your Teen Sober Means Getting Involved
It is important to realize that drinking and drug use have become normal aspects of the adolescent experience in this country. Refusing to take part in this common rite of passage can be an uphill battle for teens. You may think your child has strong decision-making skills, but it can sometimes only take one drink to become intoxicated, and then their judgment will be severely impaired. You have to talk to them about the dark side of teen drinking and how easy it is to lose control.
Art therapy can help teens understand, express, and improve their mental and emotional conditions. Since it can raise the quality of life for many, art therapy is worth considering as a catalyst for healing mental illness.
To learn more about the power of art therapy or to enquire about our addiction treatment services, give us a call at 877.466.0620.