Children sometimes need therapy to help them process and work through the issues they are dealing with. An excellent form of therapy that can help children is art therapy. To help you understand art therapy I have interviewed Shiri Hergass who is a clinical social worker and art therapist.
Tell me a little bit about yourself?
“I am a clinical social worker and an art therapist and have been working with individuals, families and groups for the last 13 years. I have a private practice in Sydney and use the means of dreams and art to explore, understand and resolve different” issues” and create a space for children to feel free and safe. Both Dreams and art, I believe give us an opportunity to see ourselves. They are both a window to our inner worlds and allow a view into our feelings, thoughts, believes sensations, behavior patterns, abilities and needs.”
What is art therapy?
“Art therapy is based on the recognition that man’s most fundamental thoughts and feelings, derived from the unconscious, reach expression in images rather than in words “(Naumburg). Simpler put art gives children, teens and adults the opportunity to express powerful emotions. The process of making art and the finished artwork facilitates discussion about some of the issues they may be facing. In my experience, I have found that children can often say more in pictures than they are able to articulate. In art making they are able to represent a thought or feeling (or re live and process an experience they’ve had) through the different art materials.”
What types of child issues is art therapy used for?
“Art therapy is great for all types of children. I specialize in working with children who have experienced trauma (sexual abuse, domestic violence, refugees, etc) but I also see/work with kids whose parents divorced, kids that are bullied at school, ones with low self esteem and body image, anxious kids, children with ADHD, with a lack of social skills and kids who have nightmares. If a child is not reaching his full potential and is not happy art therapy can help. I work with children individually and I run groups called “free to be me” where there are up to 5 kids in a group.”
How can art therapy help children?
“Children use expressive art materials for self-disclosure. The images created in art sessions allow for a better understanding of the child, not unlike a ‘finger print’ telling where the child is at in that particular moment. Images allow a chain of emotions and feelings to surface. It is easier for the child to talk about the image than about him/herself. Through the images, disclosure of important information is revealed.”
“Utilizing the arts does more than just offer a child entertainment. It allows a child to explore his/her feelings and ideas and inspires them to think in ways that expand their personal vision. It develops the use of their creative minds as it applies to how they make choices, problem solving and how they relate to others. It taps into their very essence and enriches their lives with the wonder of their own imaginations. Studies indicate that children who are free to express and understand their emotions are happier and healthier and tend to do better in school.”
Are there things parents can do to extend art therapy in the home?
“Great to give kids a space in which they can be comfortable to express themselves without being judged, or worried about making a mess. When they are done you can ask them to tell you about what they created rather than saying “that’s beautiful” or judging it. At home we have one eve a week we do “family night” where the entire family sits together and creates – it is important to remember there is no need for artistic talent what so ever. It is all about the process and NOT the outcome!!!! It’s about getting the creative juices and imagination flowing.”