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How Expressive Arts Therapy Benefits Children

What is Expressive Arts Therapy? 

Expressive arts therapy focuses on creative expression and uses a variety of activities, from poetry to music to dancing, to allow the individual to connect and recognize their emotions and create positive change. In order to understand this type of therapy, it’s helpful to look at its parent category and understand the point of expressive therapies in general.

There are two types of expressive therapies. We will be focusing on expressive arts therapy, but the other expressive therapy discipline is known as creative arts therapy. The opposite of expressive therapy is traditional expression, where the focus rests on what you create, or the final outcome of your creative process. Expressive therapies, on the other hand, look more towards how you create instead of what you create.

What Does Expressive Arts Therapy Look Like? 

Expressive arts therapy is, by definition, a form of therapy. As such, the process of creative expression seeks to provide healing, understanding, and insights. By channeling how you feel into an artistic process, transformations from one state of being into a healthier and more stable mindset can begin to unfold. 

From finger painting and drawing to dancing your heart out and playing music, expressive arts therapy takes on many different forms. Other types of activities include: 

  • Drawing 
  • Painting 
  • Watercoloring
  • Sketching
  • Writing poetry
  • Sculpting 
  • Modeling 
  • Designing digital art 
  • Making comics
  • Et cetera!

3 Ways Expressive Arts Therapy Benefits Young Children 

Child painting in a pottery workshop

Expressive arts therapy improves the lives of children and adults alike. Whether social, cognitive, or emotional, this type of therapy is all about development.

1. Children are Taught How to Release Emotions and Connect with Their Feelings

Expressive arts therapy teaches children how to release their emotions in a healthy manner. Instead of keeping their feelings inside and reaching a breaking point, expressive arts therapy presents an outlet for children to use whenever they feel overwhelmed by an unpleasant feeling. 

In many cultures, it is normal to keep your emotional state hidden from people around you, even those that you are most comfortable with, like your family. This is very detrimental to children, especially if they are taught to hide their feelings. They may not have the opportunity to learn how to process their emotions, which leads to many psychological difficulties later on in life. 

With emotional arts therapy in their repertoire, children know that they can turn to one of these modes of creative expression any time they need an outlet. Not every child will understand why they may feel sad, disappointed, or unsettled at the moment, but they have the ability to recognize whether they feel good or bad. 

For example, painting is a great tool for children who are learning how to understand their emotions. Painting with bright colors, like yellow or pink, can show that the child is feeling cheery, whereas dark shades like brown and blue can indicate sadness. By creating visual depictions of how they feel inside, children strengthen their ability to communicate without necessarily using words. 

2. Children Understand That Their Behavior Affects Other People

Expressive arts therapy reminds children that it is perfectly normal to feel a wide range of emotions, but at the same time, this form of therapy also instills a strong sense of accountability for the way that they feel. Children learn that it is okay to feel however they feel, and they are also taught to recognize that the behavior stemming from their emotions affects those around them. 

Even though expressive arts therapy focuses on personal growth, it ties social development into the mix as well. Most expressive arts therapy activities are done in group settings. Children are taught how to express their emotions while also interacting with their peers. 

This is very important because it creates space for children to be true to themselves. This way, they won’t abandon themselves for the sake of social acceptance. Children learn that they are responsible for their actions as well, which creates an environment where the children can trust each other and themselves.  

From there, professionals can interpret the child’s demeanor and behavior, which are great insights into further helping children who might not have the words to say how they feel. Body language is a huge indication of emotional states, so expressive arts therapy gives therapists a tool that helps them better understand how the children are doing. 

3. Expressive Arts Therapy is a Lifesaver for Children with Difficult Upbringings 

Growing up in an unstable household, experiencing poverty, or being around a violent environment leads to many unfortunate difficulties in later years. Children who experience trauma during their most formative years will likely struggle to connect with other people. It is also harder for them to feel safe in social settings because they are often accustomed to being punished for having emotions.

Traumatized children are often stuck in a flight-or-fight mode of operation, so it takes time for their minds to adjust to a relaxed state. With expressive arts therapy in their toolbox, children who were raised in less-than-ideal settings can slowly but surely undo the effects of their childhood trauma. 

Expressive arts therapy shows them that there are places for them to be themselves without repercussions. Over time, they start to trust these outlets and it becomes easier for them to interact with other people. 

If you think about it, expressive arts therapy offers a sense of stability. Many children who grew up in chaotic households do not trust their surroundings, but expressive arts therapy is something that will always be there for children.    

It takes time for these children to rebuild their trust in the world, but expressive arts therapy is a beautiful starting point. It also helps them learn how to trust themselves as well, which is something many traumatized children struggle to do.

Become a Sponsor for Our Little Roses Today

Expressive arts therapy is an impressive tool for two main reasons. First of all, this type of therapy leads to the personal growth of the girls receiving the therapy. Additionally, expressive arts therapy uplifts the community at the same time. 

Providing expressive arts therapy to the girls at OLR is an important part of our mission, and we have seen the difference that it has made in these girls’ lives.

Through creative activities, self-expression, and plenty of encouragement and care, the girls at Our Little Roses have been able to grow up to be confident, empowered women who are ready to make a positive impact in their community. They are able to identify their feelings and communicate them in a more productive manner.

Do you know what else makes expressive arts therapy possible at Our Little Roses? Sponsors like you, of course! To find out how you can donate to OLR or sponsor a girl, please take a look at our sponsorship page. Your contributions make a lasting impact on the quality of life of these young girls. As a sponsor, you help to provide the girls at OLR with a quality educational experience and a safe environment where they can feel heard and heal emotionally. If you have any questions about sponsoring girls at OLR, be sure to contact us!