How Art Therapy for Children Can Help

Art therapy for children can provide kids with an easier way to express themselves since children are more naturally artistic and creative. A young child is likely to be more comfortable initially expressing him/herself with some crayons and markers, for example, than he/she is going to be at expressing emotions and feelings through words.

A question and answer type of format can be daunting and intimidating for a child, especially when they have to try and explain themselves with their already limited vocabulary. Because of this, art therapy for children can be a much more viable solution for communication than simply having a conversation and talking about things. This can be especially true when it comes to children and traumatic events.

If a child experiences something tragic, that event usually gets buried in their subconscious where it affects them in the future. These types of things are not easy for kids to talk about, especially when there are deep-rooted emotional issues in play. Through art therapy children can help bring these suppressed emotions to the surface so the art therapist can then focus on healing the child’s issue(s).

Does Art Therapy Work For Children?

Art therapy and children can be combined to help in a variety of ways, including but not limited to the following:

  • Art therapy for mental health problems in children
  • Art therapy and child grief and/or loss. Can help children communicate about the death of a mom, dad, or sibling, for example
  • Art therapy for bereaved children and/or a child suffering from bereavement
  • Art therapy for children with learning disabilities
  • Art therapy can help children with emotional problems
  • Art therapy can aid kids with their cognitive abilities
  • Art therapy can help a child or children with abuse, helping them communicate about physical or sexual abuse
  • Art therapy and children cancer patients…can help a child with cancer
  • Art therapy for treatment of schizophrenia in children

Those are just a few aspects in which art therapy can help children. Art therapy can also aid a child in achieving better self-awareness, relief from stress or anxiety, learning disorders, autism, and other traumatic experiences.

Through art therapy, children receive treatment that is based on their existing strengths, weaknesses, intrests, and concerns. It can help children of all ages and races.

As you can see, there are many ways art therapy can work for children. Some ways may be more fitting than others, and in future posts, I’ll explore a little more deeply how art therapy can help with some of the more specific examples listed above. If you believe your child has serious issues that you’d like to aid with art therapy, I’d contact a certified art therapist near you (sorry, I don’t have the list ready yet, stay tuned as I am working on a national/international directory of art therapists).


  1. says

    Yes, Art therapy for children can provide kids with an easier way to express themselves. That’s so for sure, but art therapy gifts the parents no less. We learn to love ourselves by helping other to express themselves.
    I would say that art therapy is not the teaching of something, but the learning of smelling the flowers and hearing the silence.

  2. admin says

    Dr. Kumaranayake, I’m not sure I understand what you mean…Could you rephrase the question or elaborate a little more?

  3. Christina says

    I have a friend who lost her father recently, and her two younger siblings are dealing with things in very different ways, based on their ages I believe. The 14 yr old is angry, sad, etc. very emotional. I think art therapy would be an excellent outlet for him. The 6 yr old has yet to really become emotional, she doesn’t quite understand. Could this work for her too? Are there any suggestions for an activity I could have them do together that would benefit both? I tend to focus on painting, so any ideas to start with? Thanks!

  4. admin says

    @Christina: I think art therapy has the potential of being a great outlet for children. If you are really concerned about addressing something as serious as the death of a parent, I might suggest looking into a local art therapist. Otherwise, the creative process alone may be a good release of stress. You might consider doing something more hands-on and “crafty” with the younger one. I might suggest starting off with an art activity the child is comfortable with. Good luck and sorry for their loss :(

  5. says

    My Name is Troy Branch BFA and I am currently working on a Special Education Degree at Western Governor’s University. I wish to pursue my graduate studies in the field of Art Therapy.

    I am working on a research paper on the effectiveness of art therapy techniques for children with learning disabilities (including ASD), in elementary education. I am especially interested in finding out about art therapy in the integrated (mainstreamed) classroom environment, its implementation and effectiveness. My paper will have an overview of art therapy’s history, present state and future in the context of elementary education.

    My intent is to conduct a survey of ten questions via email so that I can use the information gathered for my research paper. The questions will be open ended in nature regarding their experiences and opinions on my topic. Each survey participant will be properly annotated and credited in the paper. I will also be happy to submit the research document upon completion to all who participate.

    Thank you for your help with this in advance,

    Troy Branch

  6. Lilly says

    My 6yr old son has begun to really take interest in coloring and drawing. He will do it for long periods of time. We are going through some custody issues and would like to use art therapy to let him express his emotions instead of in school. Can you give me ideas on what to have him draw? Thank you soooo much

    • admin says

      @Lilly I would suggest taking him to a professional art therapist as they are trained for these types of situations. If this is not an option, then use your best judgement. You know your son better than anyone and I think any art he makes could be beneficial for him. It’s likely that he’s already expressing himself through his colorings and drawings now.

  7. Manjing says

    I live with my spacial son (with ASD) who is 8 years old. He started drawing when he was 6 and then I sent him to the local art school when he was 7. But he likes drawing the way he thinks not the way he was taught.It seems that drawing is his expressing way as he difficulties in both socialization and communication. He draws every day.

    Currently I am very interested in art therapy and want to learn how art can enhance his language, and to figure out what his thought or thinking from his drawing.
    I will be very appreciated for any thought and suggestion via email:


  8. brinda naidoo says

    I am currently studyng ar therapy epecially childrn
    with spcecial need, emotional difficulties and autism, grief, abuse, hiv aids… I live and teach
    in south Afica and deal with children everyday with
    special needs and emotional problems… Art is the
    best form of children expressing themselves… they
    love it and feel free and happy and I think it is their way of releasing pent up emotions…so if you
    have a child then encourage them to get involved in any form of art good luck to all parents

  9. says

    Hi, I’m Muhamad Ali from Malaysia. I’m an art lecturer with one of Teacher’s Training Institute and very much interested in the subject.

    i find your article as very illuminating and insightful to my job. Thanks.

  10. Cajethan Ekeagwu says

    Thank you very much for this wonderful resource material. I am a social worker recently charged with working with kids in my agency’s transitional housing programs. Reading through “How Art Therapy For Children Can Help”, I found this to be very helpful for my project which will definitely be in art therapy. I would like to read more of art therapy activities.

    Thanks again

  11. Olena says

    Hi. I’m looking for a way to help my child. I broke up with my husband over a year ago, and my 5-year-old son took it very hard. He is extremely emotional, aggressive, disobedient.I’m from a perifiral town in Ukraine and I doubt if we have any professionals in art therapy here. Could you suggest any art therapy activities that can work in my case? Thank you very much!

  12. janex says

    i certainly agree that art therapy could benefit children especially those who can’t express themselves like children with autism…i want to do further study about art become an art therapist could you recommend any an institution where i can work as an art teacher as well as can do further training to become an art therapist? thanks

  13. says

    I was reading all these comments and am like oh my God! lots of Children out there need help.Am an art therapist working with war affected Children in Uganda which has been in war for 23 years.Its such an experience and you keep learning everyday.For those whose children have been through any sorts of abuse please i would suggest self coloring cartoon books and please when you think you played a role in traumatizing this child,you too become part of it and the art would help both of you.Just have art supplies at reach,work with your child and individually but sometimes these children might not want you around so use the drawings as a bridge between you.

  14. Eloisa F.Fasulo says

    Sou arte terapeuta,moro no Brasil e realmente as crianças se beneficiam muito com a arte terapia.Já atendi vários casos de crianças enlutadas,que sofreram abusos e os resultados surpreenderam.
    Adorei o espaço e as matérias.

  15. ema says

    Hello…i’m ema,counseling teacher (primary school). i really intrested to learn and use art therapy in my session. i need to know more detail about this therary and how to analyse the drawing.
    TQ…really need your explaination:)

  16. Denis says

    Hi Vincent, Brinda and any one who can help, i am a father of an 8-year old boy. His mom and I seperated when he was 4. He has lots of anger and do not get along well with people. Can you suggest more ways to help him express himself. And how exactly do i use the drawings as a bridge between us? please help. my email: I live in Namibia.

    warm regards,

  17. zak says

    so art therapy makes children express their feeling
    the process of painting, drawing might be enjoyable
    and The content of the image made in the art therapy session can contain many meanings !
    but what an art therapist exactlly do?! the child express himself and the art therapist get the meaning and find for example he/she has experienced
    rape, WHAT can an art therapist DO after finding out the problem ?!
    plz answer me as i am interested in art therapy i studied art and i have a desire to help others But i couldent find my answer all the art therapy web sites just say that it can heal but how exactlly? just being awar of the problem doesent mean that u can solve it!

  18. Ritu says

    hey i am a 22yr old from india..i have a bachelors degree in management but im currently working as a primat teacher.. im looking for a course in art therapy as i intend to heal children using art as a medium.. could u plz guide me? with any course available in india? Thank you..

  19. jessie honeycutt says

    i think art therpy helps alot of people i have been through alot cancer,liver transplant and the pain that came with all that and before all that i already liked drawing but after the surgery and stuff i found out that drawing then was much better for me because it helped me releave stress

  20. jessie honeycutt says

    thats why i would like to beacome a art therpist it would be good for me and the people i help

  21. paulette says

    Hi this is a great avenue for learning about art therapy and all that it can do. I am a teacher and currently researching the benefits of art therapy in secondary schools. I would like to learn more about this so any help will be welcomed. Would love to see this implemented in schools in my country- Trinidad and Tobago

  22. Holly says


    I am very interseted in your website and have found your work very beneficial to my research studies in this field. I would really appreciate if you could e-mail me back with information of original research sources you have used or learnt from to include in my project.

    Thanks, Holly

  23. says

    Hi Denis,sory i did not get back to you hope your little boy is doing well and you are getting along.Do you always have themes or the therapy your involving your son in? i think both of you need to engage in this activity and help each other out.Let me know if you need more help.Art therapy remains A GREAT TOOL.
    admin on August 9, 2008 10:18 pm
    Dr. Kumaranayake, I’m not sure I understand what you mean…Could you rephrase the question or elaborate a little more?
    Ventilating emotions in art therapy is a term that every therapist should know its relating yourself with the art work,being in the composition,accepting the situation and seeing resilience.This feed back is inline with Dr.Kumaranayake’s question asked years ago.

  24. says

    I think art therapy is a wonderful outlet for children. I myself love art and encourage any child around me to practice and express themselves through it, as many of us adults should. This is a great resource for many people, please keep up the excellent work.

  25. says

    You you could change the blog name title Art Therapy For Children | Helping Children With Art Therapy to something more generic for your subject you make. I enjoyed the blog post even sononetheless.

  26. joan says

    I am a social worker (LCSW)who has used (since 1992) a highly structured graphic communication technique that is extremely simple and highly effective with all ages – including children as young as 4 1/2 y/o of age. I would be happy to send you the information to disseminate – especially for those who have lttle or no access to art therapists.

    I presented this at the Internal Family Systems Annual Conference, 2002, as it is very compatible witht the method. For those familiar with CB – those techniques also interlock. It also utilizes Solution-Oriented Brief Therpay, etc. You can also see the close relationship to an externalized form of EMDR. But,you can be a lay person & use very effectively. Again, it’s very simple, very effective.

    If you are really interested, I will send you some information on this.

  27. Sarine says

    Hi, I would like to find out where can I study art therapy in Malaysia? (same question from Leen on 19 Dec). Also, whether expressive art therapy can help adults as well to deal with stress and trauma?

  28. Engee says


    I was searching art therapy and came across your wonderful site.My 6yr old son attended 8 sessions of counselling.There he draws,colours,plays with teh doll house and sandbox…he was transformed from the way he was to a very pleasant and gentle person.But when we went home for vacation things turned back to the old ways.Teh counsellor says he needs more sessions to help him deal with circumstances thht make him uncomfortable.I am now confused.Why did’nt the 8 sessions help him?Its quite impossible to keep going for these sessions throughout…
    Kindly share your views on this matter.
    Thanks in advance.

  29. Pamela Schaefer says

    HI I have a 12 year old son that I think would benefit from art therapy and I have not been able to find a therapist who offers art therapy for children/adolescents in my area. I live in Cambridge Massachusetts. Do you have any suggestions?


  30. louie says

    I will soon be teaching kids from 6-8 and I am really interested to use arts as a means of teaching and therapy at the same time…Thanks so much for this

  31. Joey says

    Hi, I am joey.
    I am taking degree in psychology. A month later i will graduate. I so interesting in play & art therapy and i hope to future up my career in children therapist. so i would like to find out where can I study art or play therapy in Malaysia?

  32. elena dijmarescu says

    My name is Elena and I will like to register my daughter to art therapy sessions. She has a hard time expressing her feelings and emmotions since her father abandoned us and I strongly belive that art therapy will help her a lot.
    My daughter is 11 yrs old and we live in West Htfd, CT. We do not know where we can find a school near where we live. Please, advice. Thank you very much.

  33. kylie says

    Hi pls can you help me, i am having a very hard time with my son max who is 10, he has global development delay,he doesnt express any feelings,other than bad tantrums. I haven’t been with his dad since he was 9 months old. His dad is an alcholic nearly died 2 years ago and now on and of very poorly,max dotes on his dad and has been let down alot by him.I really think special needs art threapy would hopefully help,pls do you no anywhere we could go,near us,we live in hertford hertsfordshire.Thankyou very much kylie.

  34. Devon says

    Hi, i’m a senior in high school and i live in arizona and I’m extremely interested in becoming an art therapist when I’m older, and I might go to NAU. They don’t offer an art therapy degree, but do you think that i could still become one through their degrees? What would you recommend majoring and minoring in? Thanks :)

  35. says

    Dear Devon,
    Your best bet is to take a combination of psychology and art courses in an undergraduate program. Be sure to have at least 3 credits each of drawing, painting and clay. Good luck with your goal. Also, you may want to check out the Colloquium at Prescott College. They are open to the pulic and we usually have 1-2 major art therapy workshops each time. Let me know if you want more information. Best wishes, Camille Smith, MA, LPC, ATR-BC

  36. eftichia says

    i have a degree in applied mathematics with a direction in education and i am very interested in art therapy for children!
    I was wondering if anyone could help me;i would love to take some courses-workshop-seminar in UK or maybe somewhere else in Europe!
    thank you
    and a happy new year!

  37. says

    I have been doing art therapy with children for 27 years as part of my family and trauma therapy practice. I have devised a simple programme that serves as part of assessment through seven sessions, which explores a child’s perception of himself in relation to his world. From the assessment, I can then explore problem areas that manifest through further drawings, with specifically suggested topics or subjects, depending on the child’s age and preferences.
    I have had real success using this method in helping children cognitively, and am willing to work with parents who want to be “hands on” in their child’s healing process via e-mail.

  38. says

    Im working right in a school for special children in Dubai as an art teacher, Im a fine arts graduate and have a little information about Therapeutic art,now that im working with the children my interest become increase in this field of art,do i need to qualify my self to be an art therapist, or do i need to take some phsychology study regarding this, please anayone can give an advise.

  39. Eunjin says

    Hi, I’m a 15 year old girl who’s interested in child art therapy. I found the information above very helpful! I’m currently researching on it as a part of my English project.I’ve found what an art therapy is, its advantage…etc But I find it really hard to find how the therapy is carried out. Can anybody help me with this?

  40. Innocent Kalu says

    Dear Sir,
    I Teach Art Therapy at the Federal College of (Special), Oyo State, Nigeria. Federal College of Education (Special) train teachers for special needs children especially those with Intellectual disabled. I would therefore appreciate it if more details information and research papers on art therapy could be sent to me.
    thank you.

  41. Cassie says

    I feel that everything you just said will educate so many people, and make them realize that art therapy can be very effective for anyone but especially for younger children who sometimes have a hard time expressing their emotions verbally. I’m a senior in high school, and I’m going to college next year to major in special education and minor in art therapy. I’ve been mentoring children with special needs since I was ten years old, and have come to learn that art is very therapeutic for them. I also find art in general to be very relaxing and soothing so I agree with everything you’ve said.

  42. Rachel says

    Hi, I’m a junior in high school and I need to come up with something for my senior project soon. I’m really hoping to go to college and become a pediatric physical therapist. For my project I really want to do something that involves helping children with physical disabilities. I think this art therapy is really cool. Do you have any ideas I could use as a project?

  43. says

    I am looking for examples of extraordinary people who are using art to transform the lives of underprivileged children. It is for a documentary I am filming called The Expressionists. If you know of anyone like this please let me know.

    Thank you,

    Douglas Clark

  44. Candice says

    I was wondering if it was good for students and really why? Im doing a paper on why it would be good to have more art classes in schools…Any suggestions

  45. says

    I am an artist in LA. I have started producing Art events benefiting art based charities for children. I know what art has been for me through tough times and it breaks my heart how little is available in schools now. Thank you for this post. I have my first event March 14th in LA and proud to be benefiting Free Arts for Abused Children.

  46. rue says

    I have spent the last year doing. Art therapy with grown men in rehabilitation and would love to start doing it in kinder gardens as a every day thing to help the kids develop there emotional intelligence and to prevent them from ending up in places like rehab

    Do you think it is worth the shot?

  47. says

    I am deeply interested in learning drama therapy for helping children and the elderly.Could you please guide me? I live in Pune in India.How do I go about training myself.

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