Art Therapy: Using Art as A Tool to Help Your Child

June 9th, 2011

Sarah was an unforgettable girl. She was a tall lanky teenager with as many piercings on her face as freckles. She was a student in an alternative high school where I worked. I can still picture Sarah today in her baggy pants, ripped clothes and colored hair. She was one of those students who wore her anger and sadness like a badge.

Everyone knew Sarah had a rough time. She had even threatened to kill herself a year earlier. The clothes and the personal history made it easy for Sarah to be left alone, and she said that’s what she wanted.

A natural artist and freethinker, Sarah was recommended for art therapy by a concerned teacher. She strolled into our first session, unloaded her books and grabbed some clay. Quietly she molded the clay. For the first month we sat mostly in silence as she formed the clay into angry mask-like faces. I accepted what she gave me unconditionally, knowing there was more to Sarah than angry masks. I waited for weeks until the time was right. I asked Sarah, “What’s behind the mask?…If you took away the angry mask what would there be?” Sarah sat quietly looking at her clay. A long pause, a sigh, her brown eyes rimmed with tears, “ I don’t know”. Our journey together had begun.

Sarah, like many kids I’ve worked with over the years, embraced art. Even with so many let downs and mixed emotions, she was able to let go and risk show who she was through her artistic creations. I witnessed Sarah bloom from lost teen to graduating Senior. Her artwork changed too. From dark pictures and angry masks to bright colored painting she proudly gave to friends and family. She had finally found a way to give of herself and to be accepted.

Years later I got a phone call. Sarah wanted to meet for lunch. That day I walked in to see the butterfly Sarah had become. Her face was glowing. She looked so happy and healthy. Her pink outfit mirrored her wonderful transformation from anger to acceptance.

We ate, laughed, listened, and knew silently that we were part of a journey that had brought us to this place. I felt grateful to have witnessed Sarah’s transformations.

Art Therapists working with children share the hopes of all parents. Our goal is to help children discover their inner beauty and potential. For many people, this journey to self-acceptance requires special support.

I saw Sarah again several years later. She was visiting home briefly and had changed schools. She was going to study counseling. She told me she was going to make a difference in somebody’s life. I nodded and smiled, knowing that she already had.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply