Art therapy and teenagers
Art therapy for teenagers
In a period of rapid changes, where adolescents look at past experiences and think of goals for the future, re-evaluating their lives and the people around them, art therapy can offer them the time and space to explore themselves in a different and safe way.
The unique combination of therapy and art extends the usual patient-therapist relationship to a new “triangular” dynamic, where teenagers hold an active role. Creativity helps them deal with their identity issues as well as with anxiety, depression, eating disorders or addictions. Art is the mirror reflecting their thoughts, issues and difficulties without having to talk about it. "A picture is worth a thousand words" according to an English language adage.
Online art therapy sessions can have a great impact on teenagers as they allow an easy and safe access to therapy through a medium so familiar to them. The results can be promising as long as there is a professional of mental health close to them and able to cooperate with me at any time in order to reduce any possible risks.
How should I propose art therapy to an adolescent?
Art therapy can be used as a tool for self discovery or a way to deal with difficult periods in life.
The best ways to propose this type of therapy to an adolescent are:
Pick a good/relaxing time for both of you and tell them that you are worried about them.
Show empathy, love and care and explain them why you think that they could benefit from seeing an Art therapist.
Remain calm if they claim they do not see the need to see a therapist.
Advice them to go for a trial session (recommend an art therapist you know).
Offer to make the first contact with the therapist on their behalf.
Give them the time to reflect (unless they are a danger to themselves)*.
Set yourself as an example and start art therapy first.
* In this case please consult a medical doctor as soon as possible.
In which cases is art therapy recommended for adolescents?
In most cases, the teenagers I meet with face difficulties that they cannot or do not want to talk about. Their expression of emotions can be also blocked. Art therapy gives them a new way of expressing and recognizing emotions as well as the safe space to meet and develop the relationship of trust they need.
Art therapy can help:
in times of academic pressure (exam preparation, etc.).
in the event of the loss of a loved one.
during periods of bullying at school, etc.
in case of addiction (to substances, etc.).
in case of family problems
in case of change of country-language-culture
during periods of traumatic experiences-accidents
in case of panic attacks
How many sessions will they need?
It is very difficult to answer this question because all people have different needs. However, at least 8-10 sessions are required for them to feel comfortable and begin to trust the therapist. Art has the power to provide immediate relief to people of all ages, but it takes a minimal number of sessions to see an emotional evolution.
What are the main goals of art therapy?
Goals may vary depending on the needs of each person. The first session is generally considered an assessment session where goals can be set in agreement with them.
Some general goals of art therapy:
Improved self-awareness (drawings serve as mirrors)
Improved self-confidence (every piece of art is a success)
Improved self-expression (pictures make it easier for people to find words to express their feelings)
Release of strong emotions (art relaxes and releases)
Improved communication skills (the therapist's empathy is important here)
Should we discuss the sessions at home?
It is best to avoid session discussions during the therapeutic period. This can cause tension and anxiety, and even misunderstandings due to the therapist's absence. The therapist is the one who guides the session and maintains the emotional balance (space and time boundaries, reflection, awareness of transference and countertransference issues).
As a therapist I record the sessions in my notes (preferably with photos of the paintings) to better understand the healing process and record the progress that has been made. Parents can request verbal debriefing whenever desired and a written report of observations at the end of each therapeutic cycle.
These case studies describe briefly the progress made by two teenagers who participated in one of my art therapy groups.
For more information about art therapy, family and friends please visit Information for Family & Friends