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Express Yourself: Art Therapy

What's the BIG Deal?

Dealing with feelings and expressing yourself is kind of a big deal because unexpressed feelings can turn into anxiety, depression, misbehavior and more. BIG, messy feelings are what we deal with all day in our office...and we know the positive impact it can have when kids are able to identify, stake a claim to the feelings and process them appropriately. It's a game-changer for sure!

According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA):
Art therapy has the unique ability to unlock emotional expression by facilitating non-verbal communication. This is especially useful in cases where traditional psychotherapy has been ineffectual. Art and art making are inherently perceptually and sensory based and involve the brain and the body in ways that verbal language does not. Art therapy provides an alternative means of communicating for those who cannot find the words to express anxiety, pain or emotions as a result of trauma, combat, physical abuse, loss of brain function, depression, and other debilitating health conditions.

Art Therapy is Different

Art therapy is a therapy that taps into the right side of the brain, unlike talk therapy, which relies on the left side of the brain. Because art therapy uses the creative pursuits of drawing, painting, sculpture and the like, it can bypass some of the defenses that are manifest with verbal therapy.

Works with Diverse Groups of Clients

Art therapy is equally adapted with young children as it is with adolescents, young adults, families, groups and the elderly.  Aside from being a relaxing pursuit that provides new insights and ways of looking at problems, art can provide mechanisms for change that are blocked from conscious thought. It is a sensory experience that soothes the limbic system and is a powerful mechanism in the treatment of people experiencing attachment issues and trauma. Moreover, art work over time can act as a permanent record of one's healing and growth.

BONUS: It's fun!

This was the scene from my office earlier today. I've had these pastels
for years (affiliate link). They are well-used and well-loved. 
The stories they could tell...

We use both acid free and regular colored pencils.

We also adore clay, playdoh, fingerpaints, markers, 
posterboards, old books, butcher paper and the like!
In the past, we've been known to use even the back

Beautiful Art

The following two photos are of two separate pieces of art (both still in progress) that were worked on in my office this week. These works have deep meaning to the creators, most of which still has to be explored!

View our Pinterest Boards for MORE ideas!

Creative Assessment and Intake Resource 

If you are looking for creative ways to get off on the right foot with your child and adolescent clients, we have a resource that you'll turn to time and again! We use this in our own office! It was created to connect with new clients and cut through some of the defenses that you might meet when just "talking" alone! You'll use this over and over again, both during evaluation and through the treatment process.

The Playful Therapist will pay for itself after the first use! Check it out and find a FREE printable page from the resource HERE!

Click to learn more!

For more reading on Art Therapy:

Creative Therapy:

Adult Coloring for Calming:


If you need resources to help you help your kids navigate the trickier, more challenging things in life...find help in our "Feelings Shop" of digital downloads at:


Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD, is  the founder of Kidlutions and co-author of BLOOM: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids. She is the creator of numerous workbooks and resources to help from the preschool through the teen years. Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter and Facebook! She'd love to see your smiling face there!


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