Art Therapy for Abused Children

At some point, people find themselves beaten by the strength of their emotions which are either difficult for them to face or to face with other people. Art therapy provides an excellent opportunity to explore these painful or intense feelings and thoughts in a supportive environment. Art therapy involves the application of a wide variety of stuff, such as batik, clay, and paints to create a visual representation of feelings and thoughts. While art therapy can be successfully applied to a single individual’s activities, best results are obtained in group state of affairs.


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The Art Therapy Debate

It is important to acknowledge that there is an in progress debate about the field of art therapy. Leading therapists in the field of art therapy have differed in opinion regarding what is important- arts in physiotherapy or art at a therapy. The organization for art therapy, which is a strong supports for the position of art therapy, states that many people are of the opinion that art therapy working with people who have deviated from the norm and suing arts. According to the website, even when art therapy is done with disturbed individuals; it may just be recreational in nature. One of the early founders of art therapy, Dr. Dobrin Barbara, however, disagrees. According to her, art therapy makes available the satisfaction and pleasures of creative work to disturbed persons.

In some way, these differences have greatly divided the art therapy community, although therapists in the art therapy field are able to integrate art as psychotherapy and as therapy.

Reasons for Art Therapy for Children

It has been proven that exercising creativity is congenitally healthy and therapeutic. Like any other exercise, arts are the exercise in creativity. However, creativity and arts come in endless forms and media. This makes art therapy wonderful because arts and creativity are therapy.

While psychotherapy and therapy, in general, provide many benefits, the concept of art therapy has proven to be successful in various ways that are not similar to the traditional practice in therapy. With regard to healing, there are many applications of art therapy and the benefits are equally surprising for many people who have never heard of art being a form of therapy.

Art therapy districts itself from traditional therapy as a form of therapy that utilizes creative art process and having low entry barriers (everybody is creative in one way or another). This type of therapy is particularly beneficial to abused children given that children are usually less comfortable and less capable of expressing their feelings and emotions in words.

Art gives children the opportunity express their powerful feelings. The process of creating the art and the finished artwork alleviates discussions about some of the issues that the children might be facing. From experience, children often say more about themselves in arts than they are able to articulate in words (Channel NewsAsia, 2011). In making arts, children are able to present their feelings or thoughts through images and therefore make a permanent and tangible record of their experiences. Through art, children are able to express their trauma, fear, conflict or anxiety, which are then integrated and resolved.

Additionally, creating arts provides children with the opportunity to alternate losses and connect with other people (Hall, 2011). The making and creating of arts is in itself a therapeutic and healing process. Children are able to learn physiological and physical skills through the processing and making or art images. The end result of art creation is that the children are able to gain a sense of what they are equal to achieving and who they are in the world (Brain skills, 2011). Art therapy combines psychotherapy and art in a creative technique using the created artwork as the foundation for understanding and self-exploration. Abused children can greatly benefit from art therapy because a lot of focus is concentrated on personal expression. In children, art therapy enriches life and heightens creativity (Keating, 2011).

Therapy techniques for Children

Childhood is a vulnerable time. The lives of many children are filled with violence, threat, physical and emotional abuse and trauma. In working with abused children, it is important to know how they are affected by depression and trauma resulting from abuse. Knowing how depression affects children enables therapists to mediate depression factors cause serious problems in children.

It has been noted that Human Figure Drawing (HFD) is useful in children who have been physically and emotionally abused. According to Art Therapy Organization, early detection of physical abuse in children may help reduce the damaging impacts on the society and victims. The HDF is one of the most commonly applied art therapy by counselors and therapists.

It is mostly used to evaluate personality structure and mental development in physically abused children. During therapy, the child is required to draw an adult person from head to toe. From the drawing, emotional indicators can be used to identify the type of abuse that the child had gone through. These emotional indicators include inclement weather, huge mouth, genitals, oversized hands, tiny portraits of self, and circles (Art Therapy Organization, 2011).

The HFD technique is particularly useful for therapy on sexually abused children because of the emotional indicators from the drawing help in detection of sexual abuse. It has proven to be effective in treating sexually abused children and reducing the possibility of the abused becoming the abused in adult age.

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For abused children, art therapies get designed to help the children learn how to regulate and identify emotions and express these emotions in a way not to hurt themselves and others. In this aspect, the art is used to bring out the fears that underlying the anger. Therapy includes story and art to identify the various situations that provoke the anger, develop the various means of dealing with the anger, and identify the impacts of the inappropriate application of the anger. Art therapy for abused children focuses on the development of skills, with emphasis on learning new skills of coping.

Instead of just painting and drawing pictures, abused children can take part in various virtual activities (Channel NewsAsia, 2011). They get engaged in games such as reaching out to contact bubbles or throwing paints at a wall- games that encourage abused children to favorable risks. Such activities can be applied to children suffering from physical abuse, emotional abuse, and children with learning difficulties. These activities are no limited that require therapeutic help but is also applicable to the professional development of children.

Beyond the games and fun, art therapy does a good job in helping traumatized children heal, by enabling them to express their feelings beyond words. For example, children are given a chance to choose an animal to represent the person who they hate and who has hurt them. Besides, the children are told how to create safe boundaries for themselves and for the people around them (Channel NewsAsia, 2011).

The effects of art therapy are bound on the evidence from completely healed clients and satisfied therapists. For example, attesting to the feeling of hard-won inner peace gained from art therapy, a depressed patient told of how she used to cut herself on regular basis. Having engaged in the therapy, she instead began cutting canvas and applying blood colored paints (Art therapy, 2011). In this case, the patient realized that she was able to express her anger and rage with all the intensity that she required without causing harm to herself. The same treatment can apply to abused children who do not open up when asked questions.

Various studies have shown that art therapy provides dramatic benefits in a wide range of settings. For example, depression and anxiety in cancer patients have been shown to reduce after participating in art therapy (American cancer society, 2011). It has also been claimed that who listen to music and look at art during labor experienced less intense labor pains than mothers in another labor environment (American cancer society, 2011).

The fascinating effect or art as a tool for diagnosis has been raised on several occasions. Researchers have compared the paintings of non-epileptic patients to those of patients with temporal lobe epileptics. It is the belief of the researchers that epileptic patients have a distinct style, with loads of frame motifs and visual movements. From these beliefs, they believe that art may be one way of treating epileptic patients.

Various types of artistic techniques can be used support abused children during the process of therapy. Children may draw pictures of victims of crime or abuse. They may create a visual representation of traumatic events that they have gone through.

Benefits of Art Therapy for Children

While art therapy can greatly benefit children (particularly abused children), it can also be beneficial to adults. Basically, art therapy can benefit anyone. Even people using arts as a means of expression without the help of an art therapist, still get the benefit of being heard.

By providing abused children with the opportunity to express themselves through arts, an art therapist can aid them to see things about themselves that they otherwise may not have realized. Art therapists are able to help abused children process their feelings and emotions that they are struggling with so that they can begin the process of healing. Given that art therapists are trained in therapy and, obviously, in arts, they have the ability to guide abused children through the procedure of creative expression. They are also capable of providing helpful insights into the creations of children and help them understand certain good or bad aspects of the children.

It is the idea of self-exploration that leads children to some perceptive conclusions about themselves. It is not surprising that the effects art therapy leads children to an overall better mental health and a general sense of relief. To reap the benefits of art therapy, especially in adults, an art therapy is not very important. Art therapy can help children improve physical and mental symptoms including but not limited to tension, anxiety, and reducing pain. It has proven beneficial to children who have slight or severe emotional abuse.

Due to the intense sensory needs of children, art therapy is greatly beneficial to them. Arts therapy provides tactile and visual self-stimulation. This creates abstract or imaginary thinking in children. During therapy, children are engaged in art projects that enhance creativity and flexibility. During theses sessions, children engage in art models that enhance communication and building relationships. Such art projects might involve the use of materials such as creams, pencil, clay, beads and feathers. It may also involve processes such as printmaking, sculpture, puppetry or painting. Initial sessions involve assessments, observations, treatment of goals, a building of trust and consultations.


When children experience certain situations in life such as abuse, it is apparent that art therapy is the best tool to bring healing and hope. Since Art therapy can be used on people with various social skills, it can help children who are shy or withdrawn or children who for some reason have difficult functioning in social situations.

The benefits of art therapy are quite broad. It improves lives by helping children to improve their emotional, physical or even mental states. It is capable of raising the quality of life for many children, and is worth trying if it can aid children in one way or another.

Again, it may be just the art of executing the creative expression in children on their own, or with other children, or seeking professional help with a therapist. In any case, the benefits of art therapy make it worth exploring as an accelerator for healing in abused children.

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