Experiential treatment methods are proven to be effective in helping teenagers combat the hopeless feelings experienced when suffering from mental illness. Creative therapies can help adolescents engage in the world around them, regaining control of their own lives. Art, one of many experiential treatment options offered at Polaris, has been particularly useful for teenagers who are struggling with substance abuse, self-esteem, depression, and other psychological issues.
Using art as a healing agent produces results that are both beautiful and beneficial. It provides a creative outlet to release emotional trauma. Individuals are able to express struggles they can’t speak about verbally through an art form. In The Art Therapy Sourcebook by Cathy Maldiochi, she explains, “while some traditional art classes may ask you to paint or draw from your imagination, in art therapy, your inner world of images, feelings, thoughts, and ideas are always of primary importance to the experience.”
1. Productive Self-Expression
By being able to express oneself on a physical medium, teens gain a voice they otherwise may have never been able to access. Language is just one of the ways ideas are expressed. But through the creative process, troubled youth can learn to visually convey what they are struggling to express in words.
2. Gaining Self-Control
Teenagers suffering from various psychological issues frequently feel as if their life is something beyond their control. This sense of personal paralysis can often cause feelings of hopelessness. But by stimulating the mind through artistic engagement, teens can create something that they can tangibly call their own. This helps regain the sense of self-determination necessary in order to overcome other problems in their life.
3. Confidence through Progress
By acquiring a progressively refined skill—such as painting, drawing, photography, and sculpting— adolescents can gain the confidence they need as their talents begin to improve. Being able to look at something they produced and physically see improvement of a unique skill is a tangible demonstration that things can get better with time and effort over time.
4. Building an Immediate Sense of Purpose
Art is a tangible medium. An artist is able to look at what they have produced and realize they created something positive and worthwhile. Looking at a beautiful painting they have made, at a fun drawing that expresses their interests, or at a photograph that reminds them of a positive time in their life, makes them realize they can produce something real and lasting.
5. Finding a Lifelong Interest
One of the reasons why experiential treatment through art has produced such remarkable results is that it allows teenagers to find a lifelong engagement. This passion may persist well-beyond their clinical treatment. Creative therapies can produce a sense of value, both in the present and future. These healthy coping mechanisms can replace risky and dangerous behaviors. Art therapy acts as an aid to those struggling with depression, substance abuse, low self-worth, and other serious mental health issues.
Ultimately, gaining tangible skills and finding an immediate outlet for self-expression are very important for the psychological well-being of teenagers and adults. Using art as a treatment alternative is an extremely useful and beneficial practice. It has very little risks, with a tremendous possibility for reward. Teens who take their art home and keep it as a reminder of what they learned can help maintain the progress they made from treatment.
Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).