Why art therapy works well for children

By Dr. Huma Durrani

 I am continuously amazed by the raw authenticity of children’s artwork. Compared to adults, creative expression comes naturally to children for communicating deep emotional content that they may not be able to put into words. After all, how many kids do you know who can articulate the underlying reasons for their difficult behaviors? However, the process of art making, under the guidance of an art therapist, is a highly effective way of accessing information that may be troubling the child. The art therapist is able to do that by  using suitable art materials and providing directives.

Moreover, art therapy is a gentle and non-confrontational way of addressing difficult emotions that may be related to family, school, self-image, trauma, loss and so on. The art therapist can work through metaphors or symbols in the artwork without tackling the problem directly. For instance, a child who is being bullied at school may be able to work through the issue by sculpting the bully as an animal or an object rather than talking about the fear inducing reality. Similarly another child who may be experiencing divorce between parents can express feelings by drawing a landscape that is indicative of the difficult circumstances at home. 

5- year-old boy processing his parent’s divorce through his drawing

As a result, most children like coming for art therapy as it provides them relief through fun based activities. Parents like the approach because it is a safe and effective way of tackling difficult situations/emotions and finding workable solutions without the burden of having to drag the child to therapy.

Testimonial from a parent:

I had been looking for something to help me work through some of the challenges I was facing within my life. At this point I reached out to Huma – who had been working with my son for a while. Art Therapy was a unique way to understand more about the troubles I was facing and Huma was a fantastic facilitator. Things came forth in a way that surprised me and by giving an image or colour to hard-to-speak truths was very freeing. I always felt comfortable and relaxed in therapy with Huma; She made it easy for me to talk and process my feelings. 

Expressing myself creatively is helping me to understand how my ‘baggage’ and negative outlook has affected my life. Art therapy helped me to change this and to focus on positive ways to live my life differently. 

Our son’s overall intelligence score indicated that he was in the gifted category but also suggested that he needed support to improve his social communication skills.  The arts therapy sessions with Huma made a huge difference for him. Huma helped him to show us what he was struggling with, by drawing, with paint and crayons, and other mediums. I would strongly recommend arts therapy with Huma to parents who have children who are going through a rough time.