Art Therapy

Art therapy involves the use of a wide range of creative techniques to allow an individual to express themselves artistically. It can be used to help treat a variety of different conditions and help people process a range of different experiences. 

Art therapy can help children and adults deal with negative situations, disabilities, and trauma. It can also assist with social-emotional development, physical development, and learning important executive functions.

What It Is

Art therapy is used to support personal and relational treatment goals effectively. It is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, build self-esteem and self-awareness, promote insight and reflection, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve internal conflicts, and boost expression. 

According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy works by using integrative methods that engage the mind, body, and spirit in ways distinct from verbal expression alone. 

Art therapy can be any combination of visual arts, drama, music, dance, writing, or other creative outlets. It tasks these different forms of expression and uses them to help individuals reach their personal development and growth goals. 

Art therapy can be used to: 

  • Regulate behaviors
  • Advance social skills
  • Learn executive function skills
  • Improve self-awareness
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Lower anxiety and stress
  • Facilitate expression 

Art therapy has also been shown to help both children and adults deal with negative situations and trauma. Art therapy can help children with neurodiversity express their individual personalities and bring attention to their strengths. 

How Art Therapy Works

How an art therapy session looks can vary greatly. These sessions are designed to meet the specific goals and needs of the patient. Different forms of expression, from painting to acting, can be used during art therapy. Art therapy can occur one-on-one or in a group session. 

One doesn’t need artistic talent for successful art therapy. The therapeutic process of art therapy isn’t centered around the value or quality of one’s work. The therapeutic value is centered on making creative choices that express one’s inner thoughts and feelings. 

For children, the therapeutic value is also based on building social-emotional and fine motor skills. 

Before starting art therapy, a consultation is held with the therapist, where a treatment plan is created to align with the patient’s individual goals and needs. When working with children, the art therapist must understand where the child is at and what are their overall goals. 

Art therapists can use many different mediums and art modalities. For example, a child may paint, create clay structures, or tell a story through a photo collage.

Benefits of Art Therapy for Children

Children of all ages have thoughts and needs that they want to express. However, they don’t always have the language skills to express those thoughts and feelings.

Social-Emotional Development

Expressive art therapy can allow children to develop their social skills. It helps children learn how to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Through art therapy, children can learn how to process feelings and emotions that can be otherwise difficult to express.

Engaging in artistic expression can help lessen anxiety and stress in children. Artistic expression can help children learn how to work through negative and positive emotional experiences. It can help improve a child’s mental health. 

Cognitive Development

Engaging in creative artwork can help release dopamine, improving one’s confidence and feelings. This can help with treating disorders that impact one’s mental health. 

Additionally, participating in artistic activities can help activate the brain's frontal lobe, which is responsible for creating memories and solving problems. 

Physical Development

Art therapy involves working with artistic tools, such as crayons, pencils, paint brushes, and clay. Working with these art tools and mediums requires one to use their hands, wrists, and fingers to develop fine motor skills. 

Art Therapy for Neurodiversity

Art therapy can be an effective part of an overall treatment plan for children with neurodiversity, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, executive dysfunction, and social-emotional delays

Art therapy can offer a way for children who find it hard to express their thoughts and feelings verbally, an alternative way to express themselves. Art therapy can provide children with a creative and enjoyable way to express themselves without ever feeling like they are failing. This can give children a sense of accomplishment as well as self-confidence. 

Engaging in a creative activity requires a range of problem-solving skills, an important skill many children with neurodiversity need assistance developing. Art therapy can reduce stress levels, elevate serotonin, and increase dopamine levels, improving concentration. It can help children learn critical executive functioning skills. 

It can also help foster emotional healing and well-being by allowing children to communicate their personal experiences and express themselves. Many children with different neurodiversity conditions are visual learners, allowing art therapy to be an excellent tool for learning as well. 

Use Art Therapy to Help Your Child with Neurodiversity

Art therapy can be a great tool to help children express themselves and expand on cognitive, social-emotional, and fine motor skills. 

If your child is part of the Home and Community Based Service (HCBS) program, this is one of the many covered therapy services you can incorporate into your child’s care plan. 

Learn more about using art therapy to help your child at Award Behavioral Health. For appointments, call us at (800) 249-9569 or contact us online. 

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