How Art Therapy Encourages Mutual Support in Children

Tia and Leo, a 13-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy, went for joint art therapy sessions. Both children have autism and have learned to work together through artmaking, showcasing their own unique styles. Of course, the dynamic wasn’t like that at first.

After the initial discomfort of unfamiliarity, Tia and Leo eventually made art together, so much so that they could complete each other’s work, exchange comments, and share stories. Over time, their conversation shifted from the literal to the metaphorical, a huge leap for children on the spectrum who struggle with abstract thinking.

On one occasion the children were asked to draw about themselves and when asked to share Tia opened up about her being bullied in school and how much she hated it. She shared that boys would push her around in class and call her lazy. Spurred by Tia’s sharing, Leo, who was normally shy and reserved, also shared his experiences with bullying. At that moment both Tia and Leo seemed to have forged a special bond. It became an opportunity for them to let their fears out in the open in a safe and supportive environment in a non-confrontational way.

To empower the children over the bully, the art therapist asked Tia and Leo to draw a boundary around the image of the bully in their artwork, containing him within a space. The session is a powerful example of open sharing and mutual support where the artwork became a medium where children could process difficult emotions in the presence of the art therapist who directed their process of healing, transformation, and growth.