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BY | Paige Rosoff & Louise Weadock

Art Therapy & Children

sunPictures can bring us back in time with a single glance. They can tell us stories, make us laugh and remind us of good and bad times – this is why we have the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Through art therapy, the drawings of our children can also tell us a story.

Children can use drawing pictures to communicate their thoughts and feelings that they otherwise might have trouble expressing. When it comes to therapy, many children find it scary or difficult to express themselves in a clinical setting. This is why art therapy is such an effective method for children, especially those with mental health challenges or disabilities.

The most common way art therapy is used is to escape from the stress of illness or disability, but it can also be used as a symbolic language. When a child draws a picture, a therapist can try and decipher the meaning and what might have inspired the child to draw it. Art therapy is used in many ways, but no matter the circumstances of the child, art therapy can be used as a creative outlet in which they can express what they’re feeling instead of putting it into words. Children of all ages can benefit from art therapy; it can help children increase awareness of self and develop healthy and effective coping skills.

Art therapy can also be used to help children with:boy-369236_1280

  • The death of a family member or friend
  • Trauma involving sexual, physical or mental abuse
  • Emotional issues such as fear of abandonment and phobias
  • Learning disabilities
  • Deal with challenges of serious diseases like cancer
  • Improve cognitive abilities
  • Treating mental disorders
  • Understanding and treating behavioral problems

Art Therapy for Children with Autism

Making art can be especially effective for children with autism. Because children with autism have difficulties processing sensory input and are often non-verbal, they respond well to visual and hands-on therapies.

Art therapy can help autistic children to increase communication and social skills, build relationships, develop a sense of individuality, and facilitate sensory integration into their lives.

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Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPAT, LPCC, ATR-BC, REAT  is a leading international expert, syndicated writer, and educator in the fields of art therapy, expressive arts and arts in healthcare. She is a research psychologist, a Board Certified and Licensed Professional Art Therapist, Registered Expressive Arts Therapist, and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, and has had over 25 years of experience and education in trauma intervention and disaster relief and integrative approaches to health.


How Art Therapy Can Help Children. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2015, from http://www.arttherapyjournal.org/art-therapy-for-children.html  

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