Art Therapy with Adolescent Clients

Art Therapy with Adolescent Clients – Associated Content

By pfeffaroo
Aug 14 2006 07:30AM

Art therapy is a versatile modality that can be utilized with a wide range of human populations in a variety of settings (Malchiodi, 3). As a therapy, it is particularly suited to adolescents because it requires the active participation of the client to physically create art objects and discuss them (5). Art therapy is useful with clients who have “ordinary” problems, as well as the mentally ill, the sick or disabled, and those affected by trauma (46).

It can take the form of individual therapy, family therapy (Riley, 66), or group therapy with peers (193).

Art therapy is a relatively new field. Although many factors paved the way, from Jung’s ideas about archetypes to an interest in the artwork of the insane (Malchiodi, 24-26), the specific concept of art therapy emerged in the mid-20th century. In the 1940s, psychoanalyst Margaret Naumburg began having her patients draw their dreams as well as talk about them. She believed these images were symbolic forms of communication, and as such, her approach was oriented toward the meaning of the final art product (35).

In the decade following Naumburg’s initial ideas, Edith Kramer became known for her ideas on the power of artmaking to initiate psychological healing. She emphasized the creative process in the act of expressing one’s inner experience (36).
The field of art therapy is still growing today and is practiced by therapists with a wide range of therapeutic orientations. Art therapy, which focuses on the visual arts, is now considered a subset of the genre called creative arts therapies (or expressive arts therapies), which also includes music therapy, drama therapy, poetry therapy, and movement therapy (Malchiodi, 38).

Although art therapy can be useful to a variety of client populations, it is especially well suited for adolescents. Teenagers are in a very creative but ambivalent period of their lives; art therapy can harness this creative energy and show them that “when creativity is introduced into problem solving, the art can provide fresh viewpoints and excitement” (Riley, 38). Art therapy usually succeeds with adolescent clients where other therapies may fail because, although teenagers have a strong desire to express their feelings and opinions, they are wary of talking to adults.

However, they are willing to indirectly express themselves through art images because “the art form is safe and under their control” (21). Furthermore, art therapy doesn’t seem like “real” therapy to adolescents; it is creative play with the help of an adult who is not controlling (65).

Continued here…

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