If you have a child who is struggling with mental illness, depression, or loneliness, you may want to learn more about teen art therapy. This unique technique is most often used when dealing with troubled teens; it is offered by licensed art therapists at their offices, or done at hospitals in a group setting. This valuable form of communication can be highly beneficial in rehabilitation and diagnosis.
Many instructors ask the teen to paint a self-portrait—a picture of how the world sees them. This project can display so much about a child’s self-image, and evoke emotion that the child cannot even explain. Images are the fundamental way babies communicate, because they do not have the capacity to speak; the first way people view the world is through pictures. This is why art therapy is an effective way to help teens put their thoughts out there on paper; it is a non-threatening way to let them pull back from their own problems and look at them externally. The adolescent may be able to see things from a different perspective when the dilemma is colorfully splayed out there on canvas. It also feels safer for the teen to speak through visual means, where they do not have to use dialogue to describe the anger, sadness, or anxiety that rushes through their veins.
Depending on the art therapist, children may be asked to mold their specific problems out of clay, which illuminates their problem in a 3-D way. Some patients may be asked to draw marks on paper, or create a collage, to show the individual problems they face, or illustrate their family dynamic. Clients are not badgered to explain their art pieces; they can offer as much information as they are comfortable with. Teens have been inundated with movie versions of what going to a therapist looks like: them lying on a couch while the doctor sits in his chair, frowning down at them, and asks how they are feeling. With teen art therapy there is no couch; and the doctor feels more like a teacher or a friend.
There are teen art therapy clinics in many areas, but art rehabilitation is also offered in many mental hospitals for single and group sessions. Teenagers start to open up more while they are looking at the artwork they have created with their own hands; communicating through the art helps the doctor find healthier ways to resolve the child’s problems. Art reveals the inner struggle in a powerful way that words cannot. Many teens are drawn to graphic designs naturally, so they usually prefer this creative way of answering life’s tough questions.