Art has been used as a medium of communication for years. It is the best way to express what you feel when feelings could not be expressed in words. As in a quote, it says.
“Art speaks where words are unable to explain”
Therefore, art can be used to treat many mental and psychological disorders, especially in children. Before diving deep into what art therapy is and how does it works, you need to understand that it is not important for a person to be good at art to take advantage of this type of therapy. It provides a medium of communication through which the person suffering from mental illness could be listened and understood by the therapist.
What is art therapy?
In an article published by the American Art Therapy Association, it says that Art therapy is a holistic approach to mental health and advancement in the lives of people suffering from psychological problems. The goal of art therapy is to use creative and visual arts that help the patient to express their feelings.
A person doesn’t need to have an understanding of art to go through art therapy. People of any age with little to no knowledge of art can benefit from it. Art therapy does not work with oral communication, however, it is such an integrative approach that involves kinesthetic, symbolic, perceptual and other modes of expressive communication.
Art therapy helps people to solve various emotional problems like reducing stress, anxiety, solving dispute and conflicts and empower them by strengthening their self-esteem and personal growth.
History of art therapy
Art has been used as a strategy for healing for thousands of years. People who suffer from trauma or any other mental illness find refuge in art by expressing what they feel. Art therapy took its form as a profession from European countries in the mid-twentieth century.
It was when a British artist Adrian Hill was recovering from tuberculosis, he found out that art and visuals can be therapeutic that can help patients who have been abused or molested to develop a strong defence against their past.
Long after this The British Association Of Art Therapists was in established in 1964 and it was since then art has been helping people to overcome their fears.
Benefits of Art Therapy for children
Art therapy for children has usually been misunderstood as play therapy. Art therapy uses arts and crafts that help the child in exploring its creative expression. However, some play activities like different games and toys have been added to provoke the creative aspect of the child. Art therapy has its role not only in disabled children but it also plays its part in making the normal child strong and developing high self-esteem.
Establishing social skills
Depending upon the type of art therapy methods adopted, the children will be divided into different groups where they work together to develop social skills. Children learn to share things and understand how anything they do have their effects on others. Not only this, developing a relationship with the therapist helps them in building their trust on people around.
Playing with colours not only helps the child overcome their fears, but it is also a slow learning process. The child learns different colours and how certain colour has its effects on human behaviour. The freedom of doing whatever the child likes and dealing with different shapes and developing stories through visuals makes him stronger and smarter.
Emotional and physical development
Arts help in the emotional stability of the child as the child learns to express its emotions. It gives the child more confidence to share what it feels. Art therapy in the form of dancing has an impact on the physical development of the child. Dancing stretches the body muscles making the child much more active and enthusiastic. Even little things like drawing and colouring help the child gain conscious control over its muscles.
Art therapy techniques for children
A lot of children suffers from trauma which keeps them confined in the event occurred to them. They are usually non-verbal about what happened to them. To help them overcome the nightmares and flashbacks they are going through, art therapy was introduced which is a non-verbal form of expression. Different methods and techniques are implemented in art therapy, some of them includes:
Children are given the freedom to draw what they want, this could be done not only in formal art therapy institutes, but parents can also allow them to do what the want by providing art supplies at home. Expression of emotions in the form of art build confidence in the child and develop trust for their parents.
A simple thing that parents can do to improve the social skill of their child is by giving them a project like preparing a dance on a song they like, learning and acting on a poem and then performing it in front of the family and friends. Little things like these have so much effect by giving minimum efforts.
- Paper art
Paper art gives child relaxation. They forget their traumas for a while and get deeply submerged in the project they have been given. Paper art is useful in helping them express their feelings for others especially when a child is non-expressive with its parents. They can make several two-dimensional objects attached to a letter with the message they are shy to convey verbally.
Parents can play their part by providing the child with a safe environment along with a number of other kids. The child feels a sense of control and empowerment with these projects.
Painting is underrated yet it has vast effects than many other forms of art. Usually, formal art therapeutic institutions provide children with paints and the freedom to do what they want. It has been found out that the children feel therapeutic to mix various colours, they feel the joy and amazement when they see things turning out by mixing colours. Children feel relieved in making new colours rather than making actual images or sceneries, This gives them confidence and is really good for children with low self-esteem.
Art therapy for children with special needs
Children with a lack of basic abilities like confidence, self-esteem, social skills, can be treated at home if parents keep a regular check on their children. In the case of children suffering from autism, anxiety, or other mental and physical illnesses, they need a safe therapeutic environment to overcome these disabilities.
Art therapy for children with autism
Children suffering from autism face difficulty in verbal and non-verbal communication, they tend to have more physical health concerns.They lack the understanding of the world and environment around them.
Art therapy is provided to children with Autism in the hope that they will be able to perceive the outside world through colours and visuals. Art helps them in improving behavioural issues and encouraging social skills. Not only that, even group therapy helps them stand out with amazing results majorly in improvement in focus.
Art therapy for abused children
Child abuse is a worldwide problem which leaves long-term effects on the mind of the child. Physical, sexual and even emotional abuse leave the child in a state in which neither they can ask for help nor be able to trust anyone. Abuse in any form shakes the children to the core which make it difficult for them to come back to normal.
However, Art has been proved beneficial for treating abused children as well. Tamara Herl, ATR-BC, is an art therapist who is involved in treating abused children. She explains how art therapy allows them to speak louder, using the colours, of the pain they have been through. With each day these children make progress which can be judged from the artwork they create.
Art therapy ideas for children with anxiety and disability
Anxiety can be low to severe from people to people. The fear and nervousness the child feel to a specific thing can be overcome using art therapy. One of the ways to reduce this is by asking the child to draw the thing he fears the most or to draw his own condition while feeling anxious. This will have a positive impact on their mind that will release all their fear and makes them feel relax.
Children with special needs should be treated differently and attentively. They demand your attention. Teaching them basic things like how colouring is done and telling them about different shapes will create a big impact. In addition to art therapy, play therapy is also important for disabled children which works by using different toys to build a better understanding of basic elements.
Parents can play their part by making time for their kids and engage in some artwork activities with them. The impact that parents leave on their child, can potentially no other person can. Parents need to seek an expert’s guidance in more serious cases like abuse and disability. Art therapy is the best known therapy for various mental and psychological illnesses.