I love working with teens. One of my co-workers describes reeling in adolescents for support as ” herding cats”. She should know as she has several at home- cats, that is. Sometimes we are so ‘lucky’ to get to work with teens for any period of time, so short-term or solution-focused therapies are of the essence. Using art in my practice is a sure way to build rapport and relationship. Art therapy has many aspects that are in harmony with short-term treatment according to Shirley Riley who wrote Contemporary Art Therapy with Adolescents (1999). Art therapy is action oriented and shared by the client and clinician. So many sessions with teens are enhanced by working together or alongside one another creating. This activity adds a whole dimension to our work together. Art making is a pleasurable activity and often teens can approach a problem in a process that suggests new solutions. We are often able to extract a limited issue from the larger picture, literally and figuratively. The problem is naturally externalized and viewing the problem from the distance of the artwork, acknowledges that our self is separate than the problem. As teens create art over multiple sessions, they can begin to see their progress illustrated in their work. Having a visual record of their progress helps the teen and therapist focus on goals that are such an integral and necessary aspect of short-term therapy. Teens are challenging to engage and to keep in a sustained therapeutic environment, so they benefit from a solution-focused, goal oriented, creative approach- bring on the art!
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