One of the most powerful aspects of art therapy is what it allows to emerge within a session. At a time when many teens feel overly constrained by obligations, packed schedules, and even the well-meaning advice from adults in their lives, art therapy can provide the space and time to JUST BE. Art expression allows teens to explore their inner world so that they can begin listening to the whispers of the soul which are so often muffled by the busyness of life.
Freedom and Control: Art therapy allows both the freedom and control many teens are longing for in their lives. During an art therapy session they get to choose what is created, how it is created, the materials they use, and ultimately the narrative they share or choose not to share about their art. This sense of autonomy can be explored in session and the art therapist can assist teens in developing new, appropriate ways of asserting oneself and the need for more independence in everyday life.
Expression and Expansion: Art therapy is also a safe space to express and expand into difficult emotions which may feel too overwhelming or even unsafe to explore in life. Using color, texture, physical movement, mess-making, and other kinesthetic qualities of certain materials can lead to cathartic release within the body. Getting what is stuck out in a safe way frees the body and mind to process what may be underneath intense emotions like anger, grief, jealousy, hatred, and frustration. This powerful form of expression can allow teens to learn how to respect difficult emotions and better understand and meet their own needs.
Containment and Closure: While art therapy can provide powerful ways to express and let go, it can be equally powerful in offering a way to contain. At times, it is appropriate to find ways to contain difficult emotions, memories, or aspects of a traumatic experience to establish a feeling of safety and control. When overwhelming emotion is spilling into every area of life, art expression, especially when combined with mindfulness, can honor the pain while also providing a teen with a safe way to contain it. Creating boxes, containers, folding drawings, and safely storing representations of pain that feels “too big” can allow teens to feel they are able to approach things in their own time and when they are ready. Containment art can also allow important endings or closures to be marked and released.
Whether your teen needs a space to simply be, a safe place to express and explore overwhelming emotions, or a way to contain and safely unpack difficult life experiences when they are ready, art therapy offers a powerful way forward through the simple power of allowing.
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