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Teaching Strategies: Well-Being Through Art Therapy

Janelle Cox

Adolescents often wrestle with emotional issues, partly because growing up can be tough. Instead of using basic teaching strategies like “Talk therapy,” many teachers are now opting to use art therapy to help promote students’ well-being and mental health. Some children who get bullied or who are bullied suffer from emotional problems and are left with feelings of anxiety and depression. For those students, as well as the ones who are just going through the typical “Emotional adolescent years,” art therapy as part of a normal range of teaching strategies is a way for them to express their feelings so they can develop their confidence and self-worth. Here we’ll take a brief look at how using art therapy can help adolescents express how they feel in a healthy way.

Effective Teaching Strategies Using Art Therapy

It may surprise you to learn that art therapy can be an effective tool to help children who have been bullied. Art therapy combines self-expression and reflection which results in helping children relieve stress. This expressive medium has been used for decades and has become quite popular in a form of therapy with children. Art therapy is based on the belief that artistic expression helps to increase an adolescent’s self-awareness, as well as cope with the symptoms and stress from the traumatic experience they have encountered. For those children who have not been bullied, but may struggle with anxiety or depression, art therapy can equally help them as well.

Art Therapy as an Expressive Therapy

Art therapy can be used as a tool to help adolescents express themselves artistically. It’s a way to guide children to discover their feelings through art and recognize the feelings they are experiencing. It can be used as means to help children relax, as well as assist in the healing process if they are going through an emotional situation at school or in their general lives.

There are a variety of different modalities that can help children articulate their emotions through the art process. Different tools can provide children with different sensory experiences. For example, working with clay can help trigger emotions and feelings for children who are anxious, while using paint is said to help shy children express their feelings. Depending upon what is going on in a student’s life, different art tools can be used to help them through it.

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Effective Art Therapy Activities

There are many effective art therapy activities that you can use in your classroom to promote emotional healing and well-being in students. Here are a few suggested activities to try.

Using Modeling Clay

Clay is a great vehicle to use for children who are angry or anxious. Clay is known to help calm children, and it allows them to express their feelings of frustration in a therapeutic and relaxing way. Children can use the clay to create a representation of the feelings they are having. It can also be used as a stress-reducer by having them massage the clay while thinking about an emotional or difficult experience they have encountered.

Working with Paint

Paint is another great tool to help children who are reluctant or have a hard time expressing how they feel through words. Paint allows children to tell their story through pictures rather than words. Finger painting and oil painting allow children that have been affected by a traumatic experience take their time and physically, as well as visually express their feelings onto paper. Something as simple as choosing their own colors to represent their feelings can help them heal immensely. For students who are not going through anything in particular, they, too, can benefit from the relaxing and healing benefits that painting has to offer.

Drawing to Help Express Emotions

Much like painting, drawing is another effective medium that can help adolescents express their emotions and get their feelings out into the open. Something as simple as drawing a picture can help release any tension or anxiety a child has, and help them express themselves artistically. Children can express their emotions by drawing images that represent how they are feeling. For example, if a child was feeling sad, they may draw a sad face or even rain to represent feeling unhappy. If a child was feeling angry, then may draw a lightning bolt or a volcano erupting can represent feelings of anger.

Unfortunately for many schools, art class is being eliminated because of budget constraints, therefore students are not able to benefit from art therapy. However, many classroom teachers are now taking over as art teachers are using art therapy to help promote their students’ overall well-being in their own classrooms. They understand the benefits that art therapy can have on their students. They also know that it is a powerful tool that can help reveal emotions that are too tragic to verbalize.

Do you use art therapy as part of your teaching strategies in your classroom? What benefits do you think it has offer with your students? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.