Art Therapy and Assessment of the Child

A special guest post from Dawn Olson at Ledger House

 

 

The purpose of an admission to Ledger is to hone in on the specific nature of the child’s emotional problems and create the best possible treatment plan for their recovery. Assessments and treatment plans are put together by Ledger’s psychologists and psychiatrists. However, it is the child and youth workers who share hours and days with the children, accumulating observations and impressions that make a valuable contribution to the assessment process. 

The staff take a back seat during the session and are therefore well-positioned to observe the social, learning, and emotional capacities of the children. One child’s primary worker, watching the child excel at many aspects of literacy, exclaimed that she wished the session had been videotaped as learning limitations which the child had been presumed to have were obviously overstated, if not wrong.  In the teen group, one teen’s readiness for discharge was reflected in art that no longer mirrored her feelings of emptiness, aloneness and terror. Instead, images of support, personal resources and hope began to predominate. These images provided the staff with information about the teen’s stage of recovery.

Some staff have commented that the art therapy seems to open up children who have been shut down and closed. This was the case with one ten year old boy who was emotionally closed off from the first day of admission. Creating a play aquarium, in the safe and supportive environment of the therapy room, helped this boy relax, have fun, and open up. For the first time he communicated through his art and verbally, about his feelings and his family. This was the beginning of building a trusting relationship with him and assessing his emotional health. He continued to be more open and communicative on the ward throughout his stay. 

 

Part 3: Six Goals of the Art Therapy Program at Ledger (I) will be released on December 20.