Art therapy can provide a wide range of benefits for students of all ages and abilities. From promoting emotional expression, self-awareness, and problem-solving skills to enhancing mindfulness and relaxation, art therapy can be a valuable addition to the classroom, helping students express themselves, build relationships, and develop essential life skills. The tools used in art therapy can be applied in the classroom in various ways to support students’ emotional and social development. However, it is important to note that these benefits may vary based on the student, and not all people may experience the same benefits from art therapy.
Incorporating therapeutic art methods into the classroom can address a variety of issues that students may face, such as stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, and behavioral challenges. By addressing these issues through creative expression, students gain a sense of control, empowerment, and resilience. In addition, by engaging in art activities with their students, teachers can foster a sense of connection and mutual respect, enhancing learning outcomes and creating a supportive learning environment.
Using Art Therapy to Creative a Supportive Environment
Collaborative art projects can also be used to promote social and emotional development. By working together to create a piece of art, students can learn to communicate effectively and develop empathy for others. There are several ways teachers can use art therapy to create a supportive and nurturing environment that fosters creativity and self-expression.
- Draw and Share: Students are asked to draw a picture of something that represents their current emotional state. They then share their drawings with a small group and discuss their feelings and how the artwork represents them. This can be a powerful way for students to express themselves in a safe, nonverbal way and gain insight into their emotions.
- Emotion Collage: Students are given a set of pictures or images from magazines, newspapers, or online sources and asked to create a collage that represents their current emotional state. This can be an effective way for students to explore and express their feelings, and it can also be used as a way to start conversations about emotions and emotional regulation.
- Mindful Coloring: Coloring can be a relaxing and meditative activity. Students could be provided with coloring books and encouraged to color mindfully, focusing on the present moment and the sensations of coloring.
- Mandala Drawing: Students are given a circle template and asked to draw designs and patterns, creating a Mandala. This calming and meditative exercise can help students focus, relax, and process their emotions.
- Emotional Self-portrait: Students are asked to create a self-portrait that represents how they feel emotionally. They can use any medium and add symbols, colors, and words that express their inner emotions. This activity can be a great way to understand their emotional state and learn how to communicate it.
- Storytelling through Images: Students are asked to create a series of illustrations that tell a story, which can be a way of processing past events or exploring emotions. This can be an excellent way for students to express themselves in a nonverbal way and can be an effective way to explore and understand different emotions.
Creating a safe and non-judgmental space allows students to express themselves freely through art without fear of criticism or judgment. Art therapy techniques can be used to encourage students to express their thoughts and feelings through creative expression. By exploring their emotions through art, students gain a better understanding of themselves and their experiences. By encouraging students to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions to problems, they can develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Incorporating engaging group art activities into the curriculum can help students learn to work together, communicate effectively, and build relationships, thus aiding their social and emotional development.
Note: It is important to remember to set boundaries of what topics are and are not appropriate for the class setting and always have a counselor or therapist available for the students if needed.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Approaches to Art Therapy: Theory and Technique by Judith A. Rubin
Creative Play: A Guide for the Artistic Path by Michele Venne
About the Author
Catie-Reagan Palmore-King, Ed.D., is the Managing Editor of the Metropolitan Universities Journal. She is a graduate of Baylor University’s Learning and Organizational Change doctoral program, where her dissertation explored the role the fine arts play in university students’ development of 21st-century skills. She received an M.S. in Strategic Design and Management from Parsons School of Design, a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Virginia Tech, and a Women in Leadership certificate from Cornell University. Her research interests include interdisciplinary arts integration, design thinking, and visual culture.