Art Therapy Helps Children Express Their Emotions

As art therapy has increased in popularity during the twentieth century, a growing number of counselors and various therapists have begun encouraging clients to do more than just talk about their feelings. Temporarily abandoning clumsy verbalizations, patients are heading for the art studios to sculpt, mold, paint, draw, and collage their innermost emotions and conflicts (Gladding, 1998). Art therapists believe that the artistic process brings to surface feelings and emotions in the same way that free association does, incorporating benefits of both talk therapy and dream analysis, but accomplishing more than either one does alone (Case & Dalley, 1992; Ganim, 1999). Dr. Estela A. Beale, a child and adult psychiatrist and associate professor in the Department of Neuro-Oncology believes that creating pictures allows children to express what is uppermost in their minds more genuinely and spontaneously than they are apt to do in a discussion with the therapist. She believes that letting children express themselves without any influence from an adult is key.

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Editor's Note from Dr. Brian MacDonald: In an admittedly quick search, I wasn't able to find any studies validating the effectiveness of art therapy. Although I don't use art therapy per se, I think it can be an important technique in the therapist's and the parent's toolbox. Young kids' language development can make it difficult for them to talk about their feelings. Having them draw, paint, or work on other crafts can not only give parents insight into their children's emotional lives, it can help the kids develop language to express themselves.

Do you draw with your kids when you talk about their day? Leave us a comment!

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