Enable positive growth

Art Therapy at The Wave

At The Wave, art therapy is just one of the family of ‘expressive and creative arts therapies’ we use to offer our young people a safe form of communication and self-expression, unrestricted by language and/or communication difficulties. The art offers a bridge between their inner world and the outside world, free from the limitations of meeting certain levels of cognitive functioning.

Our teenagers and young adults can enjoy weekly creative arts therapy sessions, using a variety of methods, such as pottery, painting, costume and fashion design, jewellery making, dance and drama.

The main aim of these sessions is to enable positive growth, by providing a safe and creative space in which our young people can begin to explore their worries, concerns and feelings – with guidance and support from Mahisha Naidu. Mahisha leads our Creative Arts Therapy activities, having trained in Dance and Movement Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths, London.

Art therapy sessions are used alongside other psychotherapy techniques, such a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Group Therapy, to achieve the very best results.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy falls under the umbrella term ‘Expressive Therapies’ – which includes music, drama, creative writing, and dance and movement.

Humans have used the arts to communicate, express themselves and heal for many thousands of years, but it is only since the 1940s that art therapy has been formally recognised as a therapeutic tool, playing an important role in the assessment and treatment of many mental health conditions.

Art therapy isn’t simply about creating art, and no artistic ability or talent is necessary to participate. Unlike art classes, where the spotlight is on learning particular techniques and creating specific pieces of work, art therapy focuses on the inner experience, expressing the inner world and on the feelings, thoughts and perceptions that come up during the creative process.

Art therapy is often used to help teenagers and young adults experiencing a range of challenges, such as bereavement, family breakdown, anxiety, low mood, low self-esteem, behavioural or social problems, or difficulties relating to abuse, neglect or trauma.

Research has repeatedly shown that positive change occurs during the process of physical engagement with art materials; through making a significant art object; through redirecting of feelings into an artwork; and through communicating with a therapist via an art object.

How Does Art Therapy Work?

Art therapy is about making art in the company of a trained therapist. The art acts as a bridge between the young person and the therapist and creates a dialogue between them – verbally or through the emerging artwork.

The art created can also serve as a transitional object – maintaining a connection between the young person and the therapist both within and between sessions – providing an important level of security.

The process of working with materials such as clay, paint, oil pastels and fabrics – and creating a final product – has amazing healing properties that help our young people:

  • explore and share their emotions
  • strengthen their sense of self
  • manage stress
  • work through their problems
  • learn better coping skills
  • uncover different aspects of their
  • personalities
  • boost self-esteem.

Art therapists are specifically trained in both artistic principles and psychotherapy and understand how the process of art can be beneficial for people to communicate their thoughts and feelings. They select the materials and the focus of each creative arts project, appropriate to each individual’s specific needs.

Examples can include: creating a collage about their feelings, painting a portrait of how they think others see them, making masks or puppets through which to discuss difficult issues, and drawing or sculpting an impression of what their fear/sadness/rage looks like.

Whilst further research is needed to tell us more about the complexities of the relationship between therapist, young person and art object, we do know that the art therapy sessions allow us to gain a greater understanding of our young persons’ functioning, resources, strengths, challenges and adaptability. This not only enhances our communication with them, but also informs valuable observation and assessment.

We can gain valuable insights by observing the process, through things like formal elements used in the artwork, such as line, colour and shape. These can make a valuable contribution to the descriptive diagnosis, and help us plan future treatments that will be of maximum benefit.

What is Art Therapy Used to Treat?

Art therapy has been shown to be effective when used with people of all ages, and to treat a wide variety of mental health disorders and psychological distress.

Research shows that positive results can be achieved when art therapy is used as a complementary therapy to treat:

  • attention deficit hyperactivity
  • disorder (ADHD)
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • cognitive impairments
  • Eating disorders, including
  • anorexia and bulimia
  • emotional difficulties
  • family or relationship problems
  • psychological symptoms as a
  • result of medical issues, such as cancer or disability
  • psychological issues
  • stress
  • substance use / dependency
  • trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Art therapy, along with other creative interventions, can be a powerful tool in therapy to assess, treat, and improve many mental, emotional and physical conditions.

How Effective is Art Therapy?

Used on its own, art therapy has not been shown to constitute adequate treatment for mental health disorders. However, it is a clinical and evidence-based intervention that, when combined with psychotherapy and medication, has proven a highly beneficial and effective component of any treatment plan.

In addition to helping our young people to make sense of their thoughts and emotions, develop greater self-awareness, cope with stress and boost self-esteem, art therapy is also effective in helping us to gain a greater understanding of their functioning, challenges and adaptability – to better inform the treatments they need moving forward.

All of these factors make art therapy an extremely valuable and effective tool in helping our teenagers and young adults achieve positive growth, and in aiding their full recovery.

Grow, heal, and lay the groundwork for a successful, happy life

About The Wave

At The Wave, we help teenagers and young adults, between the ages of 15 and 30, overcome eating disorders, behavioural problems, addiction, and other mental health problems. We use a combination of physical activities and therapy sessions to help our young people to grow, heal, and lay the groundwork for a successful, happy life.

Mahisha Naidu leads our Creative Arts Therapy activities, having trained in Dance and Movement Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths, London. Mahisha has led The Wave Clinical Team for two years. She is passionate about her treatment of eating disorders and leads our food and body groups three times a week. Her role has seen her develop a specialist interest in working with adolescent girls, particularly focused on borderline personality disorder, self-harm and developing emotional regulation.

Mahisha is currently studying Internal Family Structures (IFS), which is an innovative therapy, particularly suited to our work at The Wave, where it has been used effectively with our young people and their families. Mahisha is a member of APPCH.

To learn more about Art Therapy at The Wave, please contact us.

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