The discipline of art therapy is a fairly recent innovation in the repertoire of therapists; combining the use of both art and psychotherapy in order to connect with patients, art therapists utilize the therapeutic nature of creativity, as well as the patient’s own use of symbology, as a way to gain insight into issues affecting them that they might not even be aware of on a conscious level.
Adolescents often wrestle with emotional issues that they are unable to fully articulate. Using art therapy as a vehicle to allow them to open up in a safe and trusting environment is often a particularly effective way to communicate with them. Art therapy programs in high schools encourage students to engage in self expression through the mediums of paint, sculpture, drawing and other forms of artistic expression.
Setting aside classroom time for troubled students, councilors or art therapy-trained psychologists invite students into the studio space, where they can engage in directed assignments or free expression with a stated purpose. Students struggling with issues of depression, for example, can work through the underlying issues troubling them by engaging in their own personal use of artistic symbols or can create works of art that a therapist will then lead them in discussion and analysis about in order to draw out any latent emotions or gain insight into problems they could not articulate in any other way.
The use of art therapy in a high school setting is not widely utilized; unfortunately, budgets for this form of expression are often lacking and schools often have a difficult time engaging properly trained personnel for this form of psychotherapy. Schools that do support an art therapy program report quite positive results from both staff and students engaging in it. Often it becomes part of an arsenal of methods for reaching students who might not respond to other forms of therapy. With its therapeutic value and encouragement of creativity, art therapy has a valuable and often irreplaceable effect in reaching students who might resist more traditional attempts to draw them out.
Transcript of Video News Story
Pamela: How do you feel now about it?
Pam: I feel happier about it.
Shelley: Art therapist Pamela Cail discovered the healing power of art after spending years struggling under a dark cloud of depression.
Pamela: I needed a positive way to transform things in my own life, so I went to art. Yours just has a very happy feeling to it.
Shelley: She found peace through a paint brush.
Pamela: Your subconscious mind is trying to give you information that would make your life easier. When you draw or paint, that voice comes through.
Shelley: Now she shares that gift with students in Moncton. Guidance counselor Julie Doucette has embraced the idea, saying far too many kids struggle with self expression.
Julie: I see that a lot of students aren’t ready to talk.
Shelley: Here students can express themselves without words.
Julie: We have a lot of students who are dealing with substance abuse. We have a lot of students who are dealing with home issues, those kind of things.
Shelley: Grade eleven student Courtney Baisiey has been struggling with anxiety and depression since grade seven. She says life got better after she started to draw.
Courtney: I find the best way is for art, it shows your true colors.
Pam: Are you frustrated still?
Shelley: Today she’s working with Pam to express her inner most fears.
Courtney: I just put my favorite colors. I guess that’s a wave and if you turn it one way, it’s this way. It looks like something. It looks like waves of emotion, I guess, you could put it. That’s a good name for it too.
Shelley: All of the students here are not dealing with issues of anxiety and depression, some are just dealing with life as a student. For example, the girls behind me are graduating this year. What does the future hold?
Shawna: I do want to go to school. I’m not sure exactly what I want to take, but I plan on going and taking a bunch of courses and hopefully finding out what I want to do.
Shelley: Shawna may not find those answers for a while yet, but maybe through the power of paint the pressures of life after high school will become a little easier to bear.