Art therapy is a gentle & somatic form of therapy for children, young people and adults. In Ireland, an art therapist must be trained to Masters level to safely and ethically work with children. Art therapists also need to be registered with IACAT, the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapies. Art therapists attend clinical supervision and make their own art as part of a reflective practice.
For young children in pre-school communicating BIG feelings can be difficult. In pre-school art therapy sessions children get the time to begin to process and understand these big feelings.
Art therapy sessions are 'child-led', which means the sessions go at the child's pace and meet the needs of how the child feels on the day.
In a preschool setting with children 5 or under 'dyadic' art therapy is often used. 'Dyadic' art therapy means that when deemed suitable a child might like to invite an 'important adult' into their sessions, to either make art with them or to show the 'important adult' a special piece of art they have made. Some children chose not to invite anyone in and that's ok too.
As an art therapist working in pre-school I often remind parents in art therapy sessions is it's ok to make a mess! For children this young they learn by interacting with their surroundings and therefore play, messy play and stories are often included in art therapy sessions. The 'mess' is held and guided safely and often it is the best way to communicate how a pre-school child feels. However sometimes for some children 'mess' is not helpful, and can overwhelm children who may have a lot of feelings happening or big changes in their life, as a trained therapist I am in tune with each child to know what is appropriate for them in each session.
The art the child makes may be explored together with the art therapist, the child may also choose not to explore it or even chose to put it in the bin at the end of the session. It's important to know that art therapy is never about the finished artwork or about making 'good' pictures but is always about how art makes us feel. The artwork is stored safely in the pre-school until therapy comes to an end.
Art therapy has been clinically shown to help children process big experiences in their life and can also help them deal with common experiences/issues such as bereavement, low mood, anxiety, separation, moving home, communication or behaviour issues. Art therapy can also help to build self-esteem, self-awareness and confidence. Best of all, it is an enjoyable experience for children and adults.
To read more about creative therapies check out IACAT.ie and BAAT.org