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Art Therapy for kids

I've always loved writing, I wrote stories for my dolls and cuddlies when I was small and made them into little books but I don't remember doing much art. I was at a Grammar School and much was expected of me ("not good enough" - that I later had to do a lot of work on!) and I had to do extra Latin instead of going to cookery. My mother for some reason seemed to think it would be more useful or perhaps impressive on my CV. If we did art at all, I don't remember, I remember doing a lot of sport.

It wasn't until I had children that I found I had time and create children who wanted to spread out lots of arty crafty things on the table and make things. Art is therapy for kids without them even being aware that they are expressing themselves.

Then later when they were all at school I took a pottery class, joined a local pottery group and did exciting things like raku. I found it so relaxing and a great antidote for the busyness of life as a working mum. Being able to express through such a tactile medium and chat at the same time was a real tonic. I bought clay and we made hand built pots, coiling, pinching, wrapping the clay around scrunched up paper. There's no easier time for chatting with your kids than when you're focusing on what you're doing and there's no eye contact. That's art therapy for kids!

Life can be like raku, there are elements beyond your control
With raku you're never sure how the glaze will fire

I went on several basket making workshops and attended Willow Wednesdays where I made baskets and willow sculptures. I found being in a creative space so freeing and where I felt I could be me. I had nothing to prove, no-one would be judging unlike at work or perhaps sometimes as a mum.

This creativity spilled over into my work life as a Qualitative Market Researcher and I would develop creative approaches to marketing briefs so increase engagement of the focus group attendees and also get a deeper understanding of how they felt about the ad, product, brand, TV show, packaging etc.

But still no actual art.

I think I was scared of it.

Being willing to try new things takes us on a journey
Colour mixing is experimenting and being curious about the outcome

Fast forward to my life as a therapist, the last 20 years have seen art therapy becoming more and more important both to me as a way of expressing myself and for clients to share their world without having to explain the 'why'. Colours and shape, size and relationship one to another on the page, can be so insightful, it tells a story. I don't interpret, I use 'clean questions' to elicit their perception of what each aspect means to them.

Clean questions avoid us making assumptions from our map of the world. We ask

  • tell me about that shape

  • what does it make you think of

  • that colour, if it was a feeling what feeling would that be

  • tell me about your picture

As a Reiki Master Trainer, you'd expect me to know and apply my knowledge of the chakras, their colours, the crystals that activate, balance and clear them and the essential oils that work to balance them. But what colours mean to children can be quite unique to them so I will always ask "if that colour was a feeling, what would it be?" or "What does that colour make you think of?"

Everything has energy, we have energy, our paintings have energy. They can put their hands over the painting and find out if it has a message for them. They can ask if it is complete. Does it need more?

Many of the children and teens who come to me for help have already been through CAMHS and school counselling, not to mention being asked by parents and teachers "why?" Imagine how refreshing it is to be able to get stuck into a vision board, collage, Lego model, abstract art or making models out of play doh, using a sand tray to show me their world. It's playful, childlike, creative and importantly, it is not a 'right or wrong' situation. There's no judgement with art therapy for kids.

Our feelings are not logical, thoughts might be but our feelings are not. Our feelings are our own unique internal representation of an even that has happened - someone saying or doing something that we cannot control. The purpose of therapy in my opinion is to empower children and teens to create a more positive internal representation and this IS in their control by the time they've had a few sessions with me.

As feelings that they don't want, come up as they tune into them and paint their expression of them, I introduce some EFT tapping on the colours and shapes "there's brown", "black lines" and so on and we tap on the acupressure points to clear the unwanted energy disturbance. They can then add healing colours to their painting.

What results is an abstract expression of how they feel in the moment as they focus on what they're going through and this will change each week, each session and gradually using art, tapping and some reiki, matrix reimprinting and NLP, they emerge stronger, resilient and positive.

Unlike counselling, these creative approaches help us understand how our mind works and we can clear those intrusive thoughts and feelings by painting and tapping on the body's energy pathways to clear them, is fast and effective. Parents see results in their child after one session and we build on this usually doing 6 to complete the healing process.

There's no judgement this is what we feel
Play and express your feelings in a safe space with no judgement

We can use tapping to clear the negative energy of the painting that reflects their pain and the feelings they don't want ; their anxiety, worries, sadness, anger.

Then they make a healing painting and we 'imprint' this.

I have worked with children and teens on issues such as

  • anxiety about moving to secondary school

  • grief and loss

  • angry feelings

  • overwhelm Get in touch to book a session or talk about art therapy for your child here or if you'd like to find out how you could train to work like this with children and teens, please have a look at my training page.

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