How Art Therapy Works For Disabled Children
Children can take advantage of being in therapy, particularly if they are diagnosed with mental health issues or disabilities. However, most of them are hesitant to go to therapy because they are scared of expressing how they feel in a clinical setting. This is true, especially for young kids who have limited knowledge and those who are unable to speak the language of the country that they are in. Aside from the primary therapy types, kids can also benefit from art to communicate their emotions and their thoughts to the therapists – the adults who are committed to helping them manage and successfully overcome their challenges.
“Art therapy can be effective for most ages or populations. In fact, art is one of my favorite things to bring to family therapy, as it has the ability to level the playing field.” Melissa J Weaver, LMHC, ATR said. Art therapy is considered a part of psychotherapy where patients make use of their creativity through different materials to relieve themselves of stress, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. The therapist guides the child into interpreting the meaning of the images presented to them. The therapist and the child patient then discuss why and how the patient came up with the image or the work of art that he was able to create. Whether it is used by kids battling depression or just for the fun of it, art can be a source of therapy or outlet for the disabled.
How Art Therapy Helps Kids
People, specifically children, have a broad imagination and are innately creative, which is why it is easier for them to draw or sketch images rather than to answer questions face to face. Art working is a safe activity that allows children to handle difficult issues creatively. “Art therapy supports personal and relational treatment goals for clients. It can improve the cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem, and self-awareness, and reduce and resolve conflicts and distress.” Susan Clifton, MSW, LCSW explains. Therapists talk to their children patients and ask them about the drawings they have made while slowly walking them through how to interpret their art. This is how the therapists strive to get to the main problem. The list below enumerates some of the issues that art therapy can help children with.
- Childhood trauma like mental, physical, and sexual abuse
- Learning disabilities
- Death of a loved one
- Difficulty dealing with life-threatening diseases like cancer
- Behavioral patterns
- Cognitive disabilities
Apart from these, art therapy kids develop healthy coping skills, relieve stress, and increase self-awareness. All children with all types of conditions can benefit from art therapy.
How It Works
The whole process is dependent mostly on the therapist, the kid’s age, and the condition or the issue treated. Generally, the art therapists give the kids materials that are appropriate for their age, and then they are given the freedom to work on their own. Usually, the therapist also tells the kids what time to start and end. When the artwork is finished, he then asks the child about the different areas of the artwork so that he can understand what the artwork is all about the child’s thoughts and feelings. Consequently, he uses the child’s answers to provide an appropriate treatment plan that will help the child move forward towards recovery. “As a client retells his or her traumatic experience, art materials are offered to stretch elements of the narrative: whether through visual representation of a thought or feeling during the event, or a direct image of event itself.” Marni Rosen, Psy.D. said.
For a lot of children, art therapy does help them a great deal. But it is vital to note that each child is unique and may not respond in the same manner to each of their treatment plans. Some children express themselves fully in their artwork, while others need a little more push or a little more patience before they get comfortable enough to open up.
The key to an effective treatment plan is trust. Thus, it is crucial that parents or guardians find the right art therapist that can communicate effectively with their child. Choose someone who has had a wider scope of experience and knowledge in treating children with similar problems that your child has. You can ask friends and other family members if they may have options. You can also inquire from your other mental health professionals, as they are among the most qualified to recommend the right therapist for you and your kid.
You can set your first appointment with the art therapist earlier so that you and your child can get a better perspective of who your therapist is and how capable she works. You are encouraged to ask questions regarding your therapist’s credentials and educational background. Remember always to make sure he has sufficient credentials to treat your child.
Qualifying As An Art Therapist
In any country, there is almost always a need for certified mental health professionals who have the heart to work with kids. But getting into the mental health field is indeed not easy. You must first obtain a master’s degree specifically in Art Therapy through a licensed program from a respectable school, which can be acquired either by finishing a degree in counseling or psychology then a postgraduate license in art therapy. The second way is to enroll in an Art Therapy master’s degree program.
Art therapy can be truly enriching both for the therapist and the children being treated. Both do have to be patient and committed to achieving success.