Creative arts therapy combines traditional psychotherapy with the arts, such as music, painting, poetry, dancing, sculpture, writing and acting, to foster healing and mental well being through creative expression.
The American Association of Art Therapy explains, "Art therapy has the unique ability to unlock emotional expression by facilitating non-verbal communication. Art therapy provides an alternative means of communicating for those who cannot find the words to express anxiety, pain or emotions as a result of trauma, combat, physical abuse, loss of brain function, depression, and other debilitating health conditions."
Why Creative Arts Therapy
Teens often have a difficult time verbalizing their emotions or, conversely, they are very skilled at telling parents and teachers what they want to hear. Also, teens may mistrust adults or authority figures and thus be turned off by traditional therapy. Art therapy bypasses this and gets to the heart of the issue, as art frees teens to express themselves in a way they wouldn't or couldn't before. Art therapists do not impose meaning onto their client's art. An art therapist guides the teen in interpreting their creation, which encourages communication and trust.
Many teens also may resist traditional therapy because their idea of it, derived from books and films, is that it is only for "crazy" people. Your teen may avoid speaking to a therapist particularly because they don't want their peers to know they are "in therapy." However, creating art is not only normal but possibly interesting and may have less of a stigma to it.
Your teen doesn't have to be an artist to benefit from art therapy. Whether he or she is dealing with alcohol abuse, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, trauma of some kind or other mental health issues, art therapy can be a helpful form of therapy. It is often useful for troubled teens and the most difficult to reach teens. The very process of "creating" often unlocks their deepest layers.
Types Of Art Therapy
There are many different types of art therapy that are beneficial to the teen. Perhaps your teen has shown an interest in music, or painting? It may be the key to unlocking his or her inner turmoil. Art therapy is a way for the teen to express his or her deepest pain without fear of judgement. The teen is encouraged to interpret and discuss what they have written or painted which in turn helps the healing process.
- Art - uses painting as a means of expression. An example is that a teen might paint masks, showing how they feel on the inside, and how they feel on the outside and discuss the difference and what they both mean. Visual materials help make the unconscious, conscious.
- Music - music therapy is helpful for teens who find it difficult to express themselves through words. Playing music and singing in a therapeutic context, teens abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives.
- Drama - through drama teens can express feelings they might be uncomfortable expressing, and in doing so find connection and catharsis.
- Dancing - uses the freedom of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the teen.
- Poetry & writing therapy - focuses on the written word for growth and self healing.
- Play therapy - uses play techniques to resolve inner conflict and healing.
Benefits of Creative Arts Therapy
Art therapy gives teens a way to explore their emotions, thoughts and feelings outside the traditional one on one therapist/client relationship. Speaking to an adult therapist may feel too invasive to a teen, particularly if they have complicated or very painful emotional issues they are dealing with. Art therapy is a non-traditional therapy that gently encourages teens to express themselves.
Other benefits of art therapy are:
Accessibility - Everyone is capable of creating art, no matter the form.
Engages Teens - Because there are multiple types of art therapy, it is interesting and creative, and it engages teens natural curiosity.
Self-discovery - art therapy helps teens discover underlying thoughts and feelings, and can unconsciously trigger an emotional catharsis.
Expression - what is difficult to say with words can often be expressed visually.
Control - The teen is in control of the creative process, as well as interpreting their own work, which builds confidence and self esteem.
Stress relief - Art therapy, alone or with other techniques, is an excellent stress reliever.
Symptom relief - Art therapy can also help patients cope with pain. It can promote physical healing as patients identify and work through resentment, anger, and other emotional stressors. It is sometimes prescribed along with pain control therapy for chronically and terminally ill patients.
Non-threatening - with the focus on art, the focus is less on the teen, creating a safe outlet for expression.
Fun - teens often expect to be "confronted" about their issues, but art therapy is an unexpected, pleasureable experience in which they get to release their emotions creatively, in a safe environment.
Teen Treatment Center
Creative art therapy is often offered alongside traditional therapy in residential and outpatient treatment programs. If you think your teen is struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, anxiety, depression or other teen specific issues, contact or call The Teen Treatment Center at (844) 319-5239 today. Compassionate, knowledgeable counselors are standing by 24/7 to answer your questions and guide you to the program that best fits your teen's needs.