Art therapy combines psychotherapy with artistic media and techniques in a treatment setting. This treatment modality, based on therapeutic theory and established practice, has a long and proven history of success, especially for women and girls. Although it can be used to achieve a variety of therapeutic objectives, this type of treatment is especially helpful for addressing young women’s emotional trauma and the pain that accompanies it.
History and Validity of Art-Based Therapy
The first recorded use of art as a therapeutic intervention took place in the 1700s. Later, during the 1940s, British artist Adrian Hill, while institutionalized for tuberculosis, discovered the benefits that making art held for him and his recovery efforts. Shortly thereafter, art therapy became recognized in the United States for its psychoanalytic properties. The images created through artistic therapies forge symbolic communication between the client and the therapist, providing insight to the practitioner and helping the client overcome resistance.
Applications of Art Therapies
The scientific literature documents many effective uses and applications of art therapy. For pediatric trauma patients, creating art in a therapeutic setting can help mitigate symptoms of stress disorders. For at-risk children, self-expression has been shown to increase resilience and self-reliance. Specific population studies have demonstrated that artistic therapies can reduce depression and ease anxiety. Schizophrenia and PTSD also respond favorably to this modality. Finally, for diagnostic purposes, a client’s artwork can reveal to a trained counselor or therapist far more than the client may even realize or understand themselves.
Art Therapy’s Efficacy for Adolescent and Teenage Girls
Beginning as early as childhood, women can experience profound emotional negativity related to feelings of self-worth and their body image. The stress of trauma or dysfunction in the home life, combined with a lack of effective adult mentorship and behavior modeling, can result in many familiar emotional problems and behavioral manifestations. These include eating disorders, substance abuse and addiction, anxiety, depression and dysfunctional or abusive relationships. Many young women are unable or unwilling to participate in traditional talk therapy. Therapeutic modalities utilizing the arts are helpful for overcoming resistance in girls, allowing them to communicate in a nontraditional but highly effective way. One of the most successful applications of art-related healing for adolescent and teenage girls involves eating disorders, where issues may be too painful or deeply suppressed to respond to traditional therapy.
At Havenwood Academy, counselors and therapeutic professionals help young women on the road to recovery using this treatment approach for self-exploration and discovery. Where previously a teen girl may have been unable or unwilling to engage in therapy, she learns to trust herself and others to achieve healing. Art therapy is a vital component of Havenwood’s proven approach.