While art therapy is useful for people of any age, it’s particularly valuable for treating children, as they can use their imaginations and creativity. Art therapy uses nonverbal creative techniques, such as drawing, coloring, and even sculpting, to help people express their feelings, thoughts, and emotions artistically. The guidance of an art therapist can help when examining the psychological and emotional undertones in a patient’s art, which ultimately leads to healing.
What is art therapy?
In the most basic terms, art therapy is a regulated, integrative mental health profession that uses artistic expression to address a patient’s psychological issues. Art therapy is especially useful for its ability to unlock emotional expression in ways that other forms of therapy don’t normally do. Art therapy is not about talent or making something aesthetically pretty. A master’s degree in Art Therapy from West Liberty University is not a master of fine arts (MFA)–it’s a psychological discipline just as valid as any other that uses creativity to foster healing.
Art therapy works in a variety of ways, depending on the patient and their particular circumstances. As a holistic treatment that helps adult clients find a more purposeful path in life, the therapy process usually involves role-playing and storytelling, which helps them to engage with the material around them.
During the normal course of therapy, as a patient is encouraged to talk through their problems, it can bring up unpleasant memories. These bad feelings can then be creatively processed in a positive way. Some adult patients can use art as a way of coping with trauma and depression, while others use it to help them manage their anxieties and general everyday stresses.
Why art therapy is helpful for children
Children are much more open and receptive to creative processes than adults. Play and creative expression are already part of a child’s daily experience. Using those things to address complex psychological needs is much easier with children than it is with adults. Not only that, but art therapy is an excellent way to introduce some of these larger psychological issues like depression and anxiety in a way that doesn’t intimidate.
Art therapy is guided by a professional, but the patient is in total control of how they create their art. This allows young patients to access complicated feelings, contextualize them in familiar ways, and work through the constellation of emotions that can come about during the course of any mental health treatment.
How art therapy is used today
Art therapy has been used in hospitals to help children cope with pain and other medical challenges, and in schools and homes, as a way to teach important life skills to young children. But art therapy can be used for much more than that.
Art therapy has been used by people of all ages who have been suffering from anxiety or depression, but it has also been especially useful for children with autism. Around 40% of children with autism are non-verbal, which presents challenges to the field of psychology where “talk therapy” is such a common tool.
A Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling at West Liberty University
The Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling is a 60-credit hour degree program that consists of 51 credit hours of coursework, 3 credit hours of supervised practicum, and 6 credit hours of supervised professional internship. Learn more here.