**The following press release was originally written by Cathy Malchiodi, ATR-BC, Professional Relations for American Art Therapy Association (AATA).
Art Therapy Program Heals Hearts and Empowers Young Survivors
Child abuse is widely recognized as a serious problem, not only because it results in long-term trauma reactions, but also because it involves an abuse of power by adults over children in their care. Violence and assault to children results in attachment, mood, and behavioral disorders as well as acute or posttraumatic stress disorders, among other problems. Art therapy, a form of intervention thought to be effective in the treatment of trauma disorders, is being increasingly used to address child abuse and is often a primary form of therapy with children who are recovering from physical or sexual assault, verbal abuse, and neglect. For more than three decades, art therapy has been documented as an important method in addressing the emotional pain of young survivors of violence.
Tamara Herl, ATR-BC, an art therapist who works in Kansas, is working to help abused children find recovery and hope through art therapy. She recently initiated a program at the Heart-to-Heart Child Advocacy Center with children. Herl says, “I think the greatest value of art therapy with children who have been abused or neglected is that it provides an opportunity to give voice to their pain. The images they create provide tangible proof of progress that has been made and this can be especially helpful on days when children feel discouraged about their progress. Visual art seems to come readily to many children and adults who have been abused or neglected.”
Marlene Beeson, director of Heart-to-Heart, affirms the importance of art therapy with children who have been abused, saying, “The art offers a child something to ‘do’ besides talking. Children may resist a verbal approach to therapy. One of the reasons for this is that small children simply may not have the language skills to tell what happened to them. Older children may distrust verbal communication because their abuser probably lied to them and threatened them. To add to this insult, other adults may not believe them.”
A new monograph on art therapy and traumatized children will be available from AATA in June 2008. For information about art therapy, please visit the American Art Therapy Association, which was founded in 1969 and develops and promotes educational, professional, and ethical standards for the practice of art therapy. The AATA provides information to its members and the public regarding the field of art therapy through publications, a scholarly journal, and an annual conference.