Within the realm of our Expressive Arts Therapies, we offer a unique and specialized teen Art Therapy Program to all of the adolescents we work with at Paradigm Malibu. Art Therapy is a form of mental health treatment in which art therapists use the artistic process – including the creative process, different forms of art media, and the resulting artwork itself- to address, access, and reflect upon their current experiences. Our teen Art Therapy Program is used in conjunction with our other more traditional existing programs, such as Talk Therapy, Family Therapy, and Group Therapy sessions. Used in this way, Art Therapy provides teens with a special opportunity to experience themselves and their therapeutic process beyond the scope of the more “usual” therapy setting, designed around a conversation. Because of this, Art Therapy can be a powerful therapeutic technique to help engage adolescents even more in their own treatment process, because of the flexibility, non-judgment, and freedom which the technique offers.
The scope of the experiences that Art Therapy can help teens address include: exploring their feelings and present conflicts, reflecting upon themselves in order to create self-awareness, observing and managing their behaviors and reactions, improving social skills and navigating relationships, and providing relief to symptoms of stress, anxiety, and Depression. Art Therapy also serves to help teens develop and strengthen a positive sense of self-worth. By addressing these various aspects of teens’ experiences and their lives, Art Therapy helps promote and encourage not only teens’ ability to function healthily in their own lives, but encourages their overall sense of self and well-being as well.
Now widely implemented throughout the country in a variety of therapeutic settings, Art Therapy is proven to be a successful, well-respected form of treatment for a number of different mental health disorders. Some of these include, but are not limited to: past trauma, chronic stress due to current physical ailments, autism, depression, substance abuse and addictions, relational challenges, and social and emotional difficulties. At Paradigm Malibu, we might implement Art Therapy with our adolescents for any number of different needs, always in conjunction with a number of other treatment approaches, designed specifically for each individual teen.
As far as how teen Art Therapy actually works, it’s important to understand that it’s more about the artistic process than the art itself. It’s not about teaching teens how to produce a certain piece of art, but rather, how to engage the process thereof. In fact, contrary to a more traditional art classroom setting, a very important aspect of Art Therapy is that there is no judgment of the artwork itself, which is one of the fundamental ways in which the therapy works to help free teens to react and engage in the process. With that being said, therapists design activities that allow teens to use the creative process as a means of self-expression, without any pre-existing beliefs or judgments in place about what should or must occur. It is in the absence of such limitations on the art that creates the lack of limitations for the teens to access their own thoughts and feelings and in the process, express themselves in an uninhibited, or at least less inhibited, way.
With this being said, it’s important to recognize that Art Therapists are specialty therapists in their field, who have undergone a specific and rigorous training, beyond just the minimum Master’s degree level education. In a sense, without a professional Art Therapist, it’s likely that the making of art can be just “making art”, rather than a transformative metaphorical process to help engage adolescents to push beyond their own current limitations and perspectives.