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Benefits of Expressive Therapies for Children and Adolescents

By Tiffany Thompson, counselor, Grades 6–9
The school counselor shares how creative expression can help children deal with emotions.
Children and teenagers do not always have the words to express their feelings. Expressive therapies can be an effective way for them to connect with themselves. These forms of creative expression, including art, music and dance, can help an individual explore and transform difficult emotional and medical conditions.
Psychologists, expressive therapists, social workers, licensed mental health therapists and counselors use this type of therapy in various settings. Expressive therapies allow the individual to channel their emotions into an artistic process, transforming one state of being into a healthier, more stable mindset for the individual to begin to heal.
The arts awaken the imagination, and creativity helps children express themselves as they discover how to engage their senses. Children learn how to release their emotions in a healthy and creative manner through painting, sculpting, writing, dancing and acting. Instead of suppressing their feelings, they transfer this energy into a healthy activity. It is an outlet when they feel overwhelmed or experience unpleasant emotions.
Expressive therapies can also remind a child that it is normal to feel a wide range of emotions. At the same time, this form of therapy instills a strong sense of accountability for their feelings. They learn that it is OK to have strong emotions, but they are taught to recognize that the behaviors stemming from their emotions affect those around them.
It takes time for children and adolescents to find their way in this world, and expressive therapies are a beautiful starting point. It helps them learn how to trust themselves to move forward and become their best selves. 

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