DRAWN OUT STORIES: Children and the Art of Therapy
By Phil La Borie
First of all, full disclosure: I am not an expert on healing child abuse. I must also admit, my ACE score is a relatively comfortable two.
That said, while I had a reasonably healthy childhood, I did get smacked around from time to time – my mother favored employing one of her shoes. My dad used his fists. However, I think the most disturbing thing I experienced while I was growing up was listening to my parents argue. My father could never do anything right, at least according to my mother. That judgement often was directed at me as well and left me with a wound that has taken a lifetime to heal.
In my case, I found out at an early age that creating art was a good way to escape from the turmoil at home. When I was making stuff, I went into my own world, a place where nothing could hurt or humiliate me.
I have to admit that it can get a little lonely in that space from time to time, but I’ve made that escape an important part of my life. It can be a very useful healing tool.
I’ve been an artist and a writer for many years and I do have a fair amount of experience working with youngsters with varied backgrounds on any number of art projects. Some of them were successful, some were failures, but most of them were therapeutic in one way or another.
Along the way, as a substitute teacher, I also learned that given the opportunity, most kids love to create. As you might expect, many teachers don’t encourage free drawing time during class. They stick to the proscribed curriculum and schedule. Can’t say that I blame them – there’s always a whole lot of ground to cover.
But, if you can carve out some time for kids to make art, it often produces some very revealing results. From what I’ve observed, creating art can be a very effective kind of therapy.
While it’s often difficult for youngsters to tell you exactly what’s wrong, or what they’ve gone through or are going through, if you just hand them a pencil and a sheet of paper, and give them a little bit of direction, you can learn a whole lot about what’s going on in their heads.
And hopefully, find a way to help with the healing process.
Of course, all kinds of informative research is available that supports what I’ve experienced. There are also numerous articles on creating and directing effective art therapy. We’ll look at some of that research In upcoming columns. I’ll also share stories from artists who have experienced child abuse and used those awful experiences as a basis for their art.
We’ll also explore useful art therapy techniques, learn from successful community art therapy programs for children and their families and hear from professionals in the field.
All of this with the intention of demonstrating that as difficult as complete healing can be for youngsters, art therapy can be a very productive way to lend a helping hand.
Sometimes, a class might just give you a little reward in return for your efforts. After a long day in the classroom, that can be welcome therapy for the teacher. See below.
Phil is a writer/artist living in Garden City, SC. His ACE score is 2. He can be reached at: [email protected]