5 Reasons Art Therapy Works Magic
Art Therapy is one of the greatest tools for working with children who have special needs. SINAI’s own licensed Art Therapist Sarah Tarzik shares five ways she sees Art Therapy working magic every day.
- It reduces stress and anxiety.
Getting energy out through art–whether pounding clay or splattering paint—is a safe outlet to reduce the stress and anxiety many children with special needs experience. I once had a student who asked to pound clay before every session. After he hit the clay nervously for a few minutes he would say, “I got out all my nerves- I’m ready to start!” After he finished working with the art, he would proclaim, “I’m ready to face the rest of my day!”
- It improves self-esteem and self-respect.
Working creatively to master something new is extremely rewarding and empowering for a child, especially one who has experienced a lot of past failure. My favorite moments as a therapist are when children have the epiphany that they are capable of accomplishing so much more than they had thought. I remember one older boy who started to tear up at the end of our session. When I asked why he was crying, he replied that he never thought he could create something so beautiful.
- It reveals hidden fears and emotions.
Working with metaphors through art is a powerful tool to reveal inner thoughts and feelings. Not long ago, one of my students created a mask of a fictional character. Only after she spoke about her mask, did she realize how much she had in common with the character. She said, “I think this mask knows more about me than I know about myself!”
- It facilitates communication.
When children, especially those with social skills challenges, are asked to talk positively about their friends’ artwork, it engages them in a conversation that they would not otherwise have. When I asked one child to find something that she enjoys about her friend’s painting, she replied, “I like it because it’s colorful and fun. Hey, that’s just like you!” Her friend beamed…and faced the day with her head held higher.
- It’s a safe outlet for fear, guilt, pain and anger.
When a thought is too painful to verbalize, Art Therapy gives the child a safe outlet to express those feelings through imagery and color. When one of my teenaged students was going through a dark period in his life, he created a series of paintings full of black smoke covering a dark sky. As time passed and the series progressed, he gradually introduced some color to symbolize his hope. Over time, as his anger diminished, so did the layers of heavy black paint. Only after facing those dark paintings was he able to look at the light ahead.
SINAI Schools gratefully acknowledges Steve and Laura Paley for establishing and continuing to support our Paley-Mironov Art Therapy Program.