Scientific/Pseudoscientific Critique Whenworking with children and adolescents in a counseling setting it is oftendifficult to maintain their attention while also creating a safe environmentwhere they feel comfortable enough to open up about their daily struggles,traumas and crisis. This becomes even more difficult when working with childrenwho struggle with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), OppositionalDefiant Disorder (ODD), and even Autism. So, the questions then become what canwe do as counselors to help these children? One realm that has started to showeffectiveness is bringing Art Therapy into work with children and adolescentswho struggle with these disorders and many more.
Art Therapy Arttherapy, is a nonverbal form of creative expression, that has been used to helpindividuals from many age groups heal and find relief from mental healthproblems, while also gaining insight, achieving personal growth, resolvingissues, and increasing their sense of well-being (Durrani, 2014). Art therapyin and of itself is a relatively young modality, which was born in the secondhalf of the 20th century and developed by individuals, who were mostly artistthemselves with the belief that there was healing through art making (Durrani,2014). From a theoretical standpoint “Art therapy approaches stem frompersonality theories of Freud, Jung and techniques of psychoanalysis”(Heckwolf, Bergland, & Mouratidis, 2014). Art therapy can help facilitatecommunicative drives within children through providing a fun and leisureactivity while also developing and achieving goals. When using an arttherapy perspective, the therapist’s priority is to establish a safe, trustingenvironment in order to facilitate the client’s experience of healing andgrowth. This perspective is based on the idea that the individual clients havea natural, innate striving toward growth and self-direction (Perryman, Moss,& Cochran, 2015).
As amodality, art therapy uses a wide range of artistic materials to engage thesenses of sight, hearing, touch, and smell. Mediums used can vary on a widevariety of spectrums through colors and textures such as clay, paint, sand,play dough, pencils, crayons, glue, feathers, music and more all adding to theincorporation of every human sense. Due to the wide variety of materials andtechniques used in art therapy it allows the counselor to adapt and tailor tothe needs of the hypo or hypersensitive children (Durrani, 2014).
Art therapyin and of itself can and is incorporated into an array of theoreticalframeworks such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Gestalt Therapy, andCognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) when working with clients. It gives room tooffer patients more than what any one treatment may offer alone. Art therapyand Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) specifically are proven to be effectivetreatments for a wide range of clinical disorders (Heckwolf, Bergland, &Mouratidis, 2014). Literature Review Upon looking into literaturethere were found to be a growing body of empirically based outcome studiesdemonstrating art therapy’s effectiveness within specific client populations.
Asstated earlier art therapy is rarely if ever used solely on its own, butinstead in conjunction with other treatment modalities. In one case studyinvolving an early twenties university student seeking treatment for depressionand anxiety, the client sought out another option after months of outpatientsessions with no improvement. That option was a longer term residentialtreatment program involving the use of art therapy and DBT. Art therapy gave Annaa safe place to work through the anger and intense destructive thoughts towardher father and herself while building distress tolerance and coping skills(Heckwolf, Bergland, & Mouratidis, 2014). Studies have shown thatadolescent’s often have difficulty expressing themselves verbally whendiscussing personal issues and an expressive arts group and activities tend tohelp these young adolescents communicate their difficult thoughts and feelingsthrough various artistic modes. In another study, involving atrisk students in a public school who had been referred to the school counselorfor disciplinary school office referrals and or difficult home situationsparticipated in an expressive arts group.
This study used aphenomenological approach in which they used a grounded theory that wasimplemented to convey the experiences of the adolescent girls participating inan expressive art play therapy group. The purpose of a phenomenologicalqualitative research inquiry approach is to understand the meaning of theparticipants lived experiences, or life instances specific to each individual’sperception (Perryman, Moss, & Cochran, 2015). The goals for the groupwere that participants would develop appropriate social skills, gain anawareness of behaviors causing interpersonal problems with one another andfamily members, as well as gain healthy coping skills and methods for dealingwith feelings. The results showed that increased self-awareness was one of themajor themes throughout and personal growth was another characteristic ofexpressive therapies, which was observed in the increased expression offeelings and the sense of accomplishment and pride that the girls expressedthroughout the study (Perryman, Moss, & Cochran, 2015). To ensuretrustworthiness, honesty and comprehensions multiple forms of data were collected fortriangulation to occur and the transcriptions from each of the five sessions,along with the participants’journals and facilitators’ notes were used in the coding process. The codingprocess consisted of two researchers coding the data separately inwhich open, active, and selective codes were used to organizeeach of the group sessions.
The researchers then met and synthesized the datatogether (Perryman, Moss, & Cochran, 2015). One of the benefits to expressivearts therapy is that the art process provides alternative channels forcommunication that might have otherwise remained unknown. This is done as theart gives away to allow for unconscious feelings or unknown stories to surfaceand be processed at the client’s pace. Studies have shown that when clients,specifically children and adolescent clients are given control to take thingsat their own pace and have some control over what they can do in session leadsto the willingness of the client to work on the “hard things”. Each client acounselor comes in contact with will and do hold different issues andwillingness levels to which art therapy is proven to be a useful tool whenworking with different clients across the board. A qualitative study done by Durrani2014, followed a child by the name of Tom through a yearlong process of arttherapy sessions held once a week starting at thirty minutes then building upto one hour. Due to the lack of involvement from the parents there was a lackof background and developmental information on the given client.
Throughout theprocess the only results recorded were those observed by the therapistproviding the sessions. The results found that Tom’s self-stimulatory behaviorreduced significantly during the sessions as well as his head banging incidentswhich started to become rare occurrences. This study showed that through arttherapy the client and therapist were able to bridge the gap built by theclients struggle with language while creating a safe and welcoming environmentfor the client to explore his self-worth and expression. Conclusions and Implications When looking at the studiesexplored earlier it can be shown that the use of expressive art therapy whenworking with children and adolescents is and can be beneficial in many areas. Theadvantages when using expressive arts activities are shown to be especiallyimportant when working with adolescents as they begin the process of self-exploration,sometimes seen through experimenting with hair color, style of clothes, andlanguage as a way to express themselves.
This period of time is often tryingfor the adults in the individuals lives, thus leaving adolescents feelingmisunderstood and disconnected (Perryman, Moss, & Cochran, 2015). Arttherapy allows these individuals a place to express themselves freely whilealso feeling understood and connected. From a logical standpoint, thehypothesis that integrating art therapy into the work done with children andadolescents will help foster self-worth, growth and awareness can be seen asvalid as research has shown that when using art therapy in conjunction withother modalities such as DBT and CBT clients report an improvement inself-worth, self-awareness and decrease in symptoms such as anxiety anddepression. In regard to the replicability and sufficiency of art therapy as anevidenced based practice it was found that through research there have beenmany observational and evidenced based studies done all show positive outcomesfor the participants and clients involved. Withthat being said there are some implications to the research done on theeffectiveness when using art therapy.
Art therapy as seen through literatureand research is mostly used in conjunction with another modality thus raisingthe question of if it can stand on its own from and evidenced based standpoint.As Durrani, stated in his article Attachment in Children with Autism ThroughArt Therapy: A Case Study, “the lack of evidenced-based practice in the fieldof art therapy is a disserves to a therapeutic modality that has hugeimplications for individuals, specifically those with Autism” (2014). Quantitativestudies using potential measures for obtaining more empirical data do exist andneed to be looked into and researched further. There is also literature thattalks about how the underlining neurological processes during the art makingprocess is a growing topic of art therapy. “The process of art making isassociated with the right brain’s areas of functioning, the hemisphere in whicha wide range of emotions are expressed and mostly processed” (Heckwolf,Bergland, & Mouratidis, 2014).
More research on the process of art therapyfrom neurological