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How Teens Benefit From Creative Arts Therapy

How Teens Benefit From Creative Arts Therapy - Paradigm Malibu

Opening up during traditional therapy sessions can sometimes be difficult for teens. Many therapists turn to the benefits of creative arts therapy to reduce the stress of the traditional therapy session and to provide teens with a myriad of benefits. Creative arts therapy can also be used as a means to help teens heal from emotional trauma or to help them process the particular struggles that they experience.

Art therapy helps to promote a non-threatening environment where a teen can open up without saying too many words. It puts teens in control of the situation, allowing them to express themselves in a way that may be less stressful and more helpful for everyone involved. Teens often have access to a variety of materials including paint, markers, clay, musical instruments, and images to create whatever it is that their mood allows, giving therapists an insight to the issues at hand.

 

Creative Arts Therapy Helps Teens Express Themselves

Teens that have trouble verbalizing how they feel often feel better expressing themselves creatively. When given the chance to create something based on their feelings, teens can feel more capable of truly opening up to the therapist.

Art therapy isn’t an art class. There isn’t an instructor telling teens what to do. Instead, each patient can create what his or her mind and mood dictate. Teens are free to create whatever it is that they want without the worry of judgment or criticism. Therapists use the creative process as well as the final piece to help teens understand their feelings and behaviors. Art therapists can often help the teen identify certain feelings and behaviors from the colors, textures, and media chosen for the project. This then helps to facilitate a conversation on how to proceed moving forward.

 

Can Raise Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Teens that struggle with low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety often find that someone is always trying to direct them. Someone is always there to tell them what to do, how to do something differently, or how to act. This can often have the opposite effect on their self-esteem than the adult may have intended.

Creative arts therapy gives teens a chance to be themselves. They don’t need to follow anyone’s direction; they can do what they want as they see fit. There are no boundaries and teens can talk as little or as much as they want. Again, it puts teens in control, which can help build their self-esteem. Using art in this free form allows teens to problem solve if things don’t go the way they planned, showing them that they are capable of much more than they thought possible. These positive feelings and problem-solving skills can extend to the teen’s daily life.

 

Can Help the Brain Release Dopamine

Teens who battle depression often have lower levels of dopamine, which is a feel-good hormone. When teens with depression are given the chance to express themselves with art, they have the chance to increase the release of dopamine in their brain. Pleasurable feelings can stem from working with different textures experimenting with color, and creating or listening to different types of music. Art therapy does not typically replace medication but it can be used as a complement to pharmaceuticals if the teen has low levels of dopamine.

 

Teens Become More Creative Problem-Solvers

Creative arts therapy gives teens a chance to look at the problem and learn how to solve it. There isn’t any stress to be perfect; there isn’t even any judgment going on during the art therapy session. Instead, teens are left to figure out the issue on their own, learning how to problem-solve as they move along in the process. Some therapists will talk to teens while they work through the problem, while others will simply observe and possibly talk about the processes that occurred after the fact.

Art therapy gives teens a way to look at the problem from a creative perspective. Because art therapy can also be relaxing, many teens feel better equipped to handle the problem and then allowing them to learn from it once the project is complete. Teens may find that their art project didn’t turn out at all as they expected, but the therapist helps them learn to adapt, eventually transferring these skills to their daily lives.

 

There Are Many Different Types of Art Therapy

Today, teens have many choices when it comes to choosing a form of art therapy. Some of the most common forms of art therapy include painting, collage creating, photography, and digital art. There is also music therapy, creative writing therapy and drama therapy, where a teen will act out different roles. These types of therapy can be done alone or in a group.

Creative art therapy includes any therapy that uses any art medium to communicate and process thoughts:

  • Painting with watercolors or oil pastels on a clean canvas gives teens a blank canvas to portray their thoughts.
  • Creating a collage gives teens the chance to depict their thoughts and feelings through pictures that they find and create one big picture. Many teens prefer this method because it doesn’t require any creative skill or artistic ability.
  • Music therapy could include listening to music, dancing to it, or even composing it. Music therapy doesn’t require creativity and it’s not anything intimidating or new; many teens already prefer to listen to music so it’s an easy mode of therapy to get them to accept. This can lead to the teen feeling more willing to try other types of art therapy.
  • Creative writing and drama therapy allow teens to write out or act out their feelings and problems, giving the therapist a framework of the problems they are facing. Each type of art therapy is adaptable and customizable to meet the needs of a particular teen.

Creative arts therapy has its benefits for many teens. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach and sometimes it’s best used alongside traditional talk therapy. If your teen is having difficulty expressing himself or herself, art therapy could be a good avenue to try. Your teen can learn to tap into his or her creative side and, with the right therapist, creative art therapy can be beneficial for everyone involved.

Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his Doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA approved Clinical Psychology program, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA approved psychology internship program.

Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.

Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.

In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.

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