Thursday, December 9, 2010

Art as Healing: Adolescents.

         In the stages of Adolescence, there are many changes throughout the human body.  Adolescence is a transitional period of the body from youth and puberty to maturity.  Not only does the body change physically, but mentally as well.  It is common during adolescent stages for teens to experience dramatic change in behavior towards peers, adults, and especially their parents.  Reason for this is, they are starting to distance and separate themselves from their parents and become more independent.  Around this time, kids are more aware of their own surroundings and other kids their age, and desperately trying to fit in.  
Understanding teenagers is a challenge at best, and a teen who is struggling with emotional crisis, psychological stress, or just ill in general is beyond challenging.  Doctors usually treat the physical problems and aspects, but are often struggled with trying to find a therapeutic treatment for this age category.  Adolescents, unlike adults, more often than not need more original and fresh ways to express themselves than through “talk therapy”.  Thus, being one of the greatest struggles for a teen is their resistance to authority and diminishing trust in the adult world.  Though tough, these stages in adolescent development are completely normal, but they do not occur simultaneously with the long-established forms of verbal therapy.  As teenagers mature and develop, they gain the ability to comprehend abstract concepts and to form judgments.  There is a desire to find themselves and who they are as an individual. 
Art as an expressive language helps guide adolescents into self discovery and communicate difficult feelings and thoughts through different art mediums.  It can also be used in assisting in problem solving, building social skills, behavioral management and increasing self-esteem.  Art, as a language can provide a lead into a relationship with teens by digging into their creativity and expanding a form of communication that is nonthreatening and where the adolescent has control over the situation.  When teens are welcomed to an art therapy room, there are materials available to what they would prefer to use which enables them to draw anything they choose, and even make a statement in images that represents who they are or what they are going through in their treatment process.   Every treatment has a plan and art therapy can help adolescents map their therapeutic journey from beginning to end, helping them see how they have come along the way.  
Many therapists and counselors work in groups where there is no particular starting or ending point and they always welcome new members.  Teenagers work well in groups, simply being that they are used to being in groups.  They are introduced to groups in school, social groups such as friends, and even sports.  Thus, group therapy is a familiar setting and most teens find it a safe and familiar atmosphere.  Majority of teens are being transferred to therapy because of difficulty with interpersonal relationships between peers, parents, and teachers (authority figures in general). It is theorized that adolescents learn by each other and watching each other interact, which is another benefit of group therapy and help with these struggles with interpersonal skills.  The group setting helps with practicing all of these skills and at the same time, providing a safe space for the teen.  
The art that adolescents construct can help the therapist obtain some insight on the teens life and concerns, especially situations where they (teens) feel that it is too risky or embarrassing to reveal verbally.  Although working with teens is a difficult task and requires a little extra work, they are conducting an accomplishment to the therapist as well, in a more personal way. 

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