Those coming to therapy have a story to tell: the story of their experience. Sometimes these stories can be difficult to talk about or put into words. It might feel too hard to say or we just don’t have the right words.
Creating art provides an emotional distance which can make it easier to express what we want to say.
How is art and play therapy beneficial to children?
It allows the child to express and explore their experiences.
Enables children to gain understanding of their circumstances.
The boundaries in therapy create a safe place to express thoughts and feelings.
Younger children may find traditional talking therapies difficult. Art and play offer a child friendly alternative.
The use of art and play materials promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety.
Art and play materials can be used to release difficult feelings, such as anger, in a safe way.
Questions and Answers for parents
Will my child create upsetting artwork?
Depending on the age of the child, they may not yet the vocabulary to describe what has happened to them, and so this gives them another way to let us know what’s going on inside.
Sometimes children depict their experiences graphically, or they may do it in a more suggestive way to test out whether we can handle what they have to show us.
Won’t they just create artwork that a typical child would produce at home or at school?
Children in school are often encouraged to follow steps in creating artwork, so there is more or less a formula to what is made in school.
In therapy, a child is free to use whatever they feel comfortable with in any way that feels right for them. It depends on the child and their level of what feels okay for them. In therapy children often make a lot of mess because that is how they may feel inside, and in therapy this is completely safe and ok to do.
Is it just for younger children?
Not at all. It is widely used with a large range of client groups, including adults. Studies even show that clay can be very beneficial as a tool to use when working through trauma.
My child isn’t interested in drawing or painting, would they still benefit from this type of therapy?
Art Therapy is not about producing beautiful pieces of art work. It’s about experimenting with art materials in a safe, confidential space with the support of a therapist. They might just ‘play’ with materials rather than creating a finished piece or role play with toy figures.
Therapists will always try to find ways of working that interests of the child.
Can we try something similar at home?
Find a time when there are as few distractions about as possible and let them choose an activity for you both to do together. Try not to worry about the mess, simply allow them to talk.