Six Goals of the Art Therapy Program at Ledger (II)

A special guest post from Dawn Olson at Ledger House

In the previous post, the first three goals of the art therapy program were considered: 1) decreasing anxiety and increasing positive emotion, 2) increasing self-confidence and self-efficacy, and 3) providing a means for healthy expression of emotion. The remaining three goals of the program are covered below, and include examples of what is done to achieve those goals. 

 

 

  1. Increase Self-Knowledge and Awareness of Personal Strengths and Capacities

Woven throughout and between the art activities are relational interactions between the staff and art therapist and the children.  Through body posture, speech tone, facial expression and words the therapist and workers strive to create an environment that is nurturing and in which the children feel wholly accepted and valuable. Putting words to children’s strengths can help them know themselves better and fortify their self-image, The therapist and workers made a point to notice out loud times when a very shy 14 year old was assertive in asking for what she needed. Commenting on this budding strength helped the teen begin to see herself as assertive and gave her the confidence to practice the skill all the more.  

 

  1. Treat Trauma

Dr. Bruce Perry, a highly regarded American psychiatrist specializing in trauma, says that therapy must contain elements of patterned, repeated, and rhythmic activity, as this is what will actually begin to repair brain that was physically changed by trauma. Building plaster sculptures is one such art therapeutic activity. The children build a form, then cover it with layers and layers of plaster bandage strips. They moisten the strips, then apply and smooth them repetitively with their fingers. The children find the smoothing soothing. The plaster bandage as a symbol of healing reinforces the effectiveness of the activity.

 

  1. Promote Pro-Social Behaviour

Art therapy activities are an ideal ground for practicing being kind and helpful. In making goop, the children take repeated turns pouring a portion of water and cornstarch into a bowl. This activity provides a perfect opportunity to guide the child inclined to take less or more of their fair share, to consider both their own needs and the group’s needs. In concocting the goop, the spotlight moves from child to child. This focused attention, combined with excitement about using the final product, seems to increase the child’s motivation to do the fair thing. The activity also requires that the whole group of children consider the needs of groups to follow — the therapist sets limits about using up all available materials. Good boundaries and established limits are an integral aspect of successful group interaction.

We would like to extend a warm thank you to Dawn Olson for contributing her valuable insight into art therapy for children and teenagers.