Art Therapy – What Is It and How Can It Help?

It’s perhaps safe to say that one of the less commonly-explored therapy options from a parental standpoint these days is that of art therapy. The name itself may convey an impression of a pursuit that’s more geared toward increasing a child’s artistic talents, though in reality art therapy can in fact be a brilliantly effective developmental process. In fact, when implemented at the right time for the right child and at the hands of a highly skilled and qualified professional, art therapy can make a significant and lasting difference to a child’s long-term development.

Which begs the obvious question – what exactly is art therapy?

A Brief Definition

Summed up in the simplest of terms, art therapy is the name given to a type of therapy that centres on the creative process of making art as a means by which to nurture and develop a child’s mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Generally recommended by therapists when a child appears unable or reluctant to express themselves by way of conventional communication methods, art therapy has proven incredibly effective when and where other therapeutic approaches may have failed.

From generating self-awareness to improving self-esteem to stress-reduction and right through to general day to day behaviour management, encouraging a child to express himself/herself artistically can have extremely wide-reaching benefits. There are no prerequisite talents or even interests required to both take part in and get the full benefit out of art therapy sessions, which are led by experienced professionals who know exactly where to focus their efforts and attention.

Exactly what any child will get out of art therapy will vary in accordance with the reason this specific course of treatment was chosen in the first place. For some it’s all about communication, others learn how to become more expressive and then there are those who turn to art therapy for rehabilitation purposes. On the whole, the process is one that uniquely nurtures and encourages the development of the inner-self in order to benefit he child’s overall wellbeing and development like standard speech and language therapy and other approaches never could.

Who is Art Therapy Aimed At?

While there are of course certain individuals for whom art therapy will be recommended in order to address a specific developmental problem, it is in fact a process that can benefit just about anyone. What makes art therapy so different to all other types of therapy across the board is the way in which it doesn’t rely on standard communication or language, but rather helps bring to the surface the things a child may be unable to say out loud. Language and communication are by their very nature rather limited in terms of what they allow us to say and how we’re able to express ourselves – art therapy digs considerably deeper to target the child’s inner-self.

In terms of children who fit the criteria for art therapy therefore, it’s generally safe to say that all youngsters could benefit from the process. However, it is those children who have difficulties with expressing themselves and communicating via conventional means that stand to gain the most from art therapy sessions. It could be a child that has a genuine speech and language development issue, perhaps a notable lack of confidence leading to reluctance to communicate or any other kind of learning or developmental difficulty whatsoever. Quite simply, when and where communication by standard vocal means is difficult or making little progress, art therapy can make a quite remarkable difference.

What Does Art Therapy Involve?

One of the most wonderful things about art therapy is the way in which it can take almost infinite forms as far as the treatment process goes. With a vast array of arts and crafts to choose from, there are endless avenues to explore which in turn makes it significantly more likely that the child undergoing the therapy will make a meaningful connection with at least one art form. Some kids burst into life through dance, others are able to communicate wonderfully through their painting activities, some respond to song incredibly and others show remarkable prowess for things like sculpture.

With so many activities to choose from and perhaps approach in conjunction with one another, it’s largely unheard of for art therapy not to have a beneficial impact on any child undergoing the treatment process. It’s not until a child is given the opportunity to express what’s inside that you can really gain an understanding of what is inside, and ultimately what it is they need to progress and develop with strength and confidence.