Research suggests that if trauma takes place before a child develops verbal skills, that trauma cannot be expressed through verbal means. These issues must be resolved through nonverbal modalities, especially for children who suffer from insecure attachments. Images and working with the imagination is at the heart of art therapy. When young children draw, paint, or create, the images that emerge carry the events of the past, the meanings attached to the events, and the seeds of healing.
As the images are expressed, the conscious mind is able to take in the information conveyed and rework the meaning, even without any verbal processing of the experience. This provides the child with an experience of having power over an event in which they were powerless. Repeated empowering experiences help rebuild a sense of safety and strengthen feelings of competence.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy helps children explore their feelings, increase their self-awareness, manage their behavior, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.
A child’s art therapist uses a variety of art forms to elicit different responses. Drawing tends to stimulate the cognitive and narrative functions of the brain, while coloring and painting may trigger emotional experiences. The use of modeling clay may encourage regression into the child’s earlier developmental stages. Depending on the treatment goals, an art therapist may help children:
- Draw, color or paint
- Make a collage
- Sculpt with clay
- Create art as a part of a group
- Take photographs
- Journal with an art diary
- Color in a mandala
There are many different artistic activities that can help children express the ineffable. To learn how your child can benefit from art therapy at Mount Saint Vincent, call our intake coordinator at 303-458-7220 ext. 262.