Therapeutic Art Can Be More Than A Creative Outlet


Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us (David Richo)

HALO believes that art is more than just a creative outlet. Art gives a language to what is difficult to verbally express.

Art can do many things. It can spur growth, act as a window into the mind, and breathes beauty into emotions and the inner thoughts that are hard to articulate in any other medium. Art is crucial to experiencing the fullness of life and, as proven in recent years, offers a reprieve from troubled situations through Therapeutic Art.

Therapeutic art is a psychotherapy treatment that encourages its participants to engage with creative self-expression through various artistic mediums as a therapeutic technique. According to the American Art Therapy Association, therapeutic art can be used to “…foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.” Therapeutic art is one of the crucial pillars in helping our kids navigate through the difficult situations they may experience at school or in their home life.

When a child experiences abuse, they oftentimes lack the vocabulary to communicate what happened to them. Feelings surrounding the trauma are even more difficult to articulate and this inability can show itself in maladaptive behaviors. Emerging research has suggested that post-traumatic experiences negatively affect areas of the brain, especially those that deal with language and verbalization. With all these factors, it’s no wonder that maladaptive behaviors arise in children who experience trauma. If a child acts out, they’re likely trying to cope with feelings that they don’t completely understand themselves and these negative behaviors are the only way they can show they’re hurting.

Therapeutic art has proven integral in bridging this gap. Art is a flexible medium. There’s no defined standard so it allows all the freedom to create what our kids’ feel. It’s beneficial for stress relief as they can get lost in the process and boosts confidence as they create something no one else could. Ultimately, it offers the choice to create something beautiful from otherwise painful experiences.

We here at HALO believe that art is critical for healing. When a child steps into our art workshops we offer them the tools to create. We never pressure our kids’ involvement because it would be counterintuitive to the safe environment we want to create for them. It’s their choice and this freedom to choose is just as critical to the healing process. It allows them to open up in their own time.

Various studies have also shown that therapeutic art is critical for helping at-risk youth become more successful, civic-minded adults. Engagement with the arts has been linked to better performance in school and greater achievement in higher learning. It gives them the tools to better adapt to the challenges of adulthood. Along with that, therapy can make kids more active in conversations that could lead to improvements within their respective communities and beyond.

HALO holds true to this mission. Not only do we want one child to spend one less day alone but we also want to show that there is a community of support for them in their darkest hour. Empathy and hope are the gifts that keep giving. When this effort is put towards the community, it spreads further beyond what we can readily perceive. It creates as it inspires, inspires as it heals.

To learn more about our approach, we’ve written another post about Trauma-Informed Care that dives deeper into the subject.

If you’re interested in getting more involved with HALO and our mission, contact [email protected] to get information about upcoming volunteer opportunities.

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