Arts Therapy: Is It Just For Kids?

Art Therapy is an invaluable tool used for healing those who may be undergoing trauma, have relationship issues or need to find a purposeful way to express themselves.

Susan Day

10/23/20233 min read

Art Therapy is an invaluable tool used for healing those who may be undergoing trauma, have relationship issues or need to find a purposeful way to express themselves. It has gained momentum in the past few years and was originally developed in the 1940s.

While art therapy involves all manner of artistic methods, such as drawing, painting, sculpting, dance, music, and even journaling, it is often misunderstood as therapy for only children.

Children love to play and be creative. Art and play are the natural languages of children from the time they can hold a pencil until they reach their teens. They seem to be hardwired to know when they are given a set of crayons and paper, that this is their moment to shine.

And art therapy is extremely effective for children. It works as a non-verbal therapy, meaning the client doesn’t need to express their feelings or ideas in words. For children this is perfect because they often lack the words to express themselves clearly or talk through what has happened to them and how they are feeling.

But is it only effective for children? No!

But I Can’t Draw!

As an arts therapist I have heard this repeated back to me so many times. Adults who have been conditioned to believe they are not artistic or creative will baulk at the idea of doing art therapy. Deep down inside they seemed to have packed up their paints a long time ago, never to be opened again.

And what a shame!

Art therapy offers an avenue for adults, and people of any age, to work on their emotions and feelings, all the time while they develop a greater understanding of themselves.

Also, art therapy is not about creating a masterpiece. It is not the result a therapist is looking for. Instead, they want their clients to experience the processes of art. They might ask: What does it feel like to move a paint brush across a canvas? How does that soft clay feel in your hands?

As the client ‘experiences’ the process of art-making, they begin to identify a greater sense of who they are. Feelings will emerge that need to be understood and clarified. Art therapy offers a safe place for those who need to heal and discover their unique version of self-expression.

Art Therapy for Adults

Art therapy is for everyone. It successfully uses a comprehensive approach to healing. It can be used alongside traditional ‘talk’ therapies, but it is also equally effective on its own. It’s disheartening to hear many adults have lost their ability to play or interact with art materials. We are encouraged to internalize our feelings and become productive. We are told to earn, spend, repeat. We live in a world that values verbal communication and writing, not to mention tech skills, where adults are driven to intellectualize their feelings, motives and behaviors.

Art therapy, on the other hand, opens up the doors for adults to play, be creative and get messy – all in the name of creative expression.

Finding Your Truth

If you haven’t given art therapy a go, now may be the time to do so. Studies have shown it can relieve stress as you become calmer and more focused on what you are doing. These sessions allow you to spend time on yourself and grow as you travel on your inner journey. Clients create art that expresses their inner world which is vastly different from what is expressed in their outer world.

Art Therapy is Not Art Class

While they might look the same, art therapy sessions are not art classes. They go way beyond simply being creative and having fun. Art therapy offers clients an inclusive environment to safely explore difficult emotions that have stopped them becoming their best selves.

Art therapy can also equip clients with tools they can use away from their sessions. Coping mechanisms are utilized to ensure the client can cope with stressful situations at home or at work. They learn to speak to others in a manner that is clear and consistent with their needs and remain calm during stressful situations.

While art therapy might not be for everyone, it is certainly worth everyone trying it. The benefits certainly outweigh any resistance a person may have. It can empower and heal it ways scientists are only beginning to understand.

About the Author

Susan Day is an art therapist practitioner, author and artist. She has years of experience writing articles for websites and once edited a literary magazine. Susan is enthralled with the power of art and the written word to change people’s lives. Pop over to her website, mindfulartstherapy.com.au, and check out her Mindful Art Therapy Books on Amazon.