While many people might visualise speech therapy as sitting down and trying to verbalise certain words, there are many forms that therapy can take. In recent years, art therapy has grown in popularity in a number of different areas, and is now used to treat conditions such as addiction and PTSD. In this blog, we’re going to examine how art therapy can be used as a component of speech therapy.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that encourages self-expression through art, be it painting, drawing, sculpting, or any other form of art. According to the Art Therapy Association of America, the purpose of art therapy is as follows:
“Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change”.
There are many reasons a person may be in need of speech therapy, such as cognitive issues like autism, or physical issues like cerebral palsy. Self-esteem and social skills are often negatively affected by speech impediments, making art therapy a particularly effective way of dealing with multiple issues with varying causes.
How Does it Work?
To understand why art therapy is an effective form of speech therapy, we have to remember that in its simplest form, art is a way of expressing ourselves. Every individual in the world has different thoughts and opinions that they will want to express in different ways, and the freedom that art affords us allows everyone to express what’s on their mind in one way or another. This means that no matter where a person is starting from, art therapy can allow them to express themselves, and then build on that to express different or more complex ideas.
On a psychological level, art therapy is beneficial because it engages the areas of the brain that deal with language and expression. Even if a patient is not verbalising what they are thinking, they are exercising the same muscles and building up their ability to do so. Art is also not a hard science, meaning there are no right or wrong answers. This kind of activity is particularly helpful for people with self-esteem issues. Not only is it harder to ‘fail’ at art, when people are given the chance to produce what they like, they usually will. This results in a situation where the patient wants to talk about their art and explain what they were trying to accomplish, which helps to build not only their cognitive abilities, but also their social skills and self esteem.
Art Therapy at Home
Another great benefit of art therapy is that it can easily be done at home or on the go. Of course, if you are undertaking therapy of any kind, you should first consult with a qualified therapist. If you have done that, then the first step we suggest is to give your child the option of choosing what materials to work with. While some may like painting, others may like working with clay. Identifying the type of art they will be most excited about is the best way to make therapy as effective as possible.
When they have chosen their material, ask them to make you something. The odds are that even before the materials are bought, they will have something in their mind that they want to make. No matter what they decide to make, you can ask them what it is, how to describe it, why they chose it, and so on.
As time goes on, you can set them different challenges, such as making their favourite animal, making a present for a relative’s birthday, designing or Christmas cards. Exactly what you choose to do will depend on your child’s needs, which your therapist will help you identify. Regardless of what specific requirements your child may have, you can see how one piece of art can help them develop not only their core language skills, but also their confidence and social skills. These multifaceted benefits are a large part of why art therapy has become so popular, and why it is an approach you should definitely consider.