Therapy comes in many different shapes and sizes. For some, visiting a therapist helps dramatically, others benefit from mindfulness practices. There are those that find improvement in their mental health through exercise. These are all well-known for being beneficial, but art therapy is relatively new to psychotherapy and it’s helping many people improve. In the case of children all the above can be too intrusive to their daily lives. Something as formal as traditional therapy can create a bigger problem for children because it can result in a hyper-awareness of themselves. This can be detrimental to the process of dealing with any dilemmas they may be working through. However, using arts and crafts therapeutically is both fun and unalarming for little ones.
Arts and Crafts Therapy
Arts and crafts used as a form of therapy works to help people improve their mental health using creativity. This is a particularly useful form of therapy for anyone who feels uncomfortable expressing their thoughts, experiences and issues vocally.
This may be because they can’t put their emotions into words, or because they feel frustrated, shy or even scared to put words to their experiences and feelings. Often children are left unable to find the right words which can heighten their frustrations. Which is why art therapy can help tremendously. Furthermore, because arts and crafts are a staple part of a child’s learning and play – unlike the use of art therapy in adults – the activity is a safe and familiar practice.
Art Therapy Courses
Finding new ways to express and work through problems is beneficial as it serves as a healthy outlet for those struggling with their mental health. There are courses available all over the country and in other parts of the world. One such course is titled the Master of Art Therapy, which is held at the University of Western Sydney. The course is run by Dr Sheridan Linnell, who states that expression through art can heal and be a step towards improving expression and making sense of yourself.
The growing number of courses available show the growing importance of art therapy in the practice of mental health management. To be able to implement simple art therapy techniques into your family life you don’t have to enrol in an art therapy degree. It doesn’t hurt however to do some extra reading. There are tons of online sources and we will be posting many here on our blog.
Non-threatening Mental Health Therapy
Art can be used by anyone, but it’s especially valuable to those that experience difficulties in opening up to speak about their experiences. War veterans dealing with PTSD are sometimes offered art therapy as it provides a soothing outlet. The therapy was beneficial as it provided a resource to aid the veterans. It helped them to work through the experiences without having to use words connected to feelings of discomfort and distress. As children and their experience of the world (including their emotions) are limited to their grasp of language communication can be restricted. However, using art forms can open up areas of expression which are otherwise capped by speech alone.
Group Therapy – Getting The Family Involved
Arts and crafts are an option for those that are anxious about traditional forms of therapy, such as seeing a counsellor. Furthermore, it’s a form of therapy that can be successfully given to groups, such as families. Often, younger children will find family therapy especially daunting and even scary. Arts and crafts make it easier for children to share their experiences and memories with their family in order to work through them together. This is a helpful and beneficial practice for parents as well as children as this will relax you in what can be a tense situation. Family craft sessions are a great way to open up a dialogue when your children are of various ages and may have diverse interests. The simplicity of a fun session of family crafts is a non-threatening way of involving teenagers.
It’s Not All Drawing and Painting
The beauty of arts and crafts used for emotional expression is that there aren’t any strict rules. It doesn’t only work if you paint a picture and isn’t limited to fine art. The approach is something to have fun with and be creative so there is no rule book to follow. Arts and crafts involves so many activities that can all be beneficial. The focus is put on the process and the journey to create a sense of self rather than the end products. You don’t have to be a budding artist to get the benefits from craft therapy. Coming up with creative ideas and producing a piece of work of any calibre is an achievement.
Talking through the inspiration and meaning of the artwork is crucial. This makes the doing of the activity therapeutic and relaxing, whilst the discussion is a relief afterwards. An individual may find knitting to be useful, another could be captivated by clay modelling. There is no one single solution as artistic tastes differ, especially with children’s crafts. Some arts and crafts that can work well with younger children include:
- Creating mood boards
- Model kits
- Colouring books
- Puppet making and play
There isn’t a one size fits all solution, as with all forms of therapy, what works for one may not work for another. Experimenting with art therapy is one option that could be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as word association. This combination can help your children to extend their emotional vocabulary and open up verbal communication. Another great combination is to link arts and crafts with exercise. How about making a kite to then take out on a family day out? Or painting pebbles to place around the park creating a trail for later walk and talks? Both are great way of getting more from craft activities.