An Introduction to Art Therapy for Children
Jan 11, 2022 For quite a long time, therapists have been working together to meet the needs of our patients. Whether you’re an occupational, physical, art, music or speech therapist, the odds are pretty significant that you will work with another professional to better meet the learning and developmental needs of a child on your caseload.
In This Article
One of the biggest forms of therapy integrated into multiple learning modalities is art therapy. According to ArtTherapy.org, art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.
The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) says that “Art Therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns.”
We use art therapy to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.
The AATA also says, “Art therapy uses integrative methods, engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone. Kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic opportunities invite alternative modes of receptive and expressive communication, which can circumvent the limitations of language. Visual and symbolic expression gives voice to experience and empowers individual, communal, and societal transformation.”
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Can You Use Art Therapy with Speech Therapy?
Whether or not you have a child who needs help with verbal expression or auditory comprehension, there are some excellent art-based activities that engage all of your child’s senses. And the best part – you can do art therapy at home! I know for some, even the phrase “art project” evokes fear of mess and chaos! But, for a child in speech therapy, an art experience may be just what he needs to explore his creative side and improve his verbal and comprehension skills at the same time.
Art therapy can help support and reinforce speech therapy goals. Both therapy types share similar components related to language and expression, such as expression with the tone of voice, and body orientation.
This is one form of communication development that allows individuals to express themselves through the use of visual mediums. Also encouraged is talking about their artwork and asking them to share with others what they are working on.
This allows an opportunity for a child to gain self-confidence and public speaking experience. Also, as your child perfects his masterpiece, try asking him to describe what he is making by sequencing the steps to completion. By doing so, he is demonstrating that he can follow directions and take pride in his work.
More benefits of art therapy
Art therapy can also be used as a way to help children express what they are feeling if they cannot communicate it verbally. This is especially important because it will help them feel more in control and will alleviate the temper tantrums that ensue due to frustration.
Krista Reinhardt-Ruprecht, a registered psychotherapist, explains how art therapy works. “When we’re stuck in feeling states,” she says, “we are in the right hemisphere, low in the brain, and it’s hard to climb out of that. When we use our hands to make art, we trigger our left hemisphere to come back online. Meanwhile, we are making an internal emotion into an external piece of art, which can help us by looking at it as separate from who we are.”
Art Therapy Ideas
1. Magazine photo mash-up
A simple way to do this at home is to have your child cut out images from magazines that catch their eye. Then give them a piece of paper and glue and have them arrange the images in a collection. If they are willing, ask them to narrate their process as they go.
2. Create mandalas
Creating mandalas is great for regulating emotions. Once your child is done creating the picture, they can color it in! They even have mandal coloring books that you can find online, if they don’t want to make it themselves.
3. Picture your emotions
One of the best ways for kids to start understanding emotions is to have them picture the emotion. Have them close their eyes and picture an emotion like anger. Once they have a picture, they can draw it.
4. Making art from nature
Working with natural materials is soothing and helps ground us. Plus, you can find beautiful materials to work with by just taking a walk outside. Make nature bracelets, sun-catchers, or create beautiful weavings with natural materials.
So, try out these art therapy ideas, and remember that having fun is always the key ingredient! Oh, and you can even study this field and get an art therapy degree!