Art Therapy provides a means by which students may explore feelings, increase awareness of self and others, enhance cognitive abilities, and enjoy the pleasure of making art in non-verbal and socially acceptable forms. Images become a metaphor for the individual’s understanding of his situation or reality, allowing for discharge of feelings, conflicts, fears and concerns, and allows for dialogue at a symbolic level. Art becomes an extension of the child which can be used to support, value, empower, and give the child a voice.
The process of the session may be structured or open-ended depending on the interest or goal of the child. Some students choose to engage in long-term projects, whereas others create a product in one session. The student may verbally discuss his artwork or he may work quietly. Referral for Art Therapy may include an interest in art, an interview, and/or a screening process.
Students do not have to be artistically inclined, but may have an interest in expressing themselves creatively which is helpful for students who have difficulty with verbal expression. Art Therapy usually meets one time a week for a 45-minute session, although it can be more frequent. With the student’s permission, the art process and artwork is often shared with the treatment team.
A variety of materials are presented to the student such as pencils, colored pencils, oil and chalk pastels, markers, watercolor and acrylic paints, or three-dimensional materials such as clay, plaster, sculpey, and craft items. Another avenue for self expression includes the sand tray. Students use miniature figures to make a picture in the sand and then tell a story. This allows students the opportunity to set up a world in which to explore inner conflict, fears, strength, and emotions in symbolic form in a safe, protected, accepting environment.