Role of Art & Art Therapy

Role of Art & Art Therapy in the Holistic Development of Children and Psychological Healing of Clients with Emotional Issues

A brief descriptive summary of the Workshop on Art Therapy held on April 14, 2018

Art, Art classes, Painting sessions, Summer Art Classes! What are they all about? How do they help or benefit the growth and development of children at all ages?

Art can help children improve their communication skills, their social interaction and emotional and physical development.

Are art classes different from Art Therapy? Who can benefit from Art Therapy?  What activities are involved in Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is the deliberate use of art to address psychological and emotional needs. Art Therapy uses the media of art and the creative process to help in areas such as, but not limited to, fostering self-expression, creating coping skills, managing stress and strengthening a sense of self.

Art includes visual (like painting) and expressive arts (like music, clay work, poetry, dance, sand therapy and drama/theatre). Art is different from Art Therapy. Art Therapy involves the use of art for psychological counselling to treat developmental (mental or intellectual limitations), medical conditions (cancer, dementia), and resolution of unexpressed emotional conflicts. Art Therapy can also be used to manage troubled behaviors (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, self-injurious behaviors, anger issues in children), building interpersonal skills (socially shy, introvert temperament), regulating emotions in stressful situations (occupational, academic, career related areas) and to achieve insight of more troubled emotions (in abuse, loss of loved on, failure etc)

Art Therapy has several benefits.

Some of these may be physical like building strength in arms, hands and fingers (in young babies/toddlers, in those with weak hand or limb muscles) by activities like holding crayons, paint brushes, pencils.

Art Therapy also helps in sensory exploration, as a fun filled, pressure free, pleasurable activity of creating things that are colorful.

Art Therapy also helps in improving eye-hand and motor co-ordination.

For preschoolers, the creation of art maybe a big accomplishment as they enjoy the process of involving in art by representing real or imagined objects. This helps them develop their thinking process and imagination.

For school going children, Art may help in preparation or further improvement of writing skills and better motor control of the finger grasp. These children can also develop a sense of sharing, responsibility, social skills development and social interactions as they work in groups. Art also helps improve observation skills necessary for life and academics, helps them to interact or be more sensitive to nature and the surrounding environment. Art also helps them share their experiences, express or verbalize their feelings and helps them improve their self-esteem.

Art Therapy can include activities like painting, drawing, sketching, doodling or visual arts. Art Therapy can also include activities of movement or expression like music, dance, drama, role plays, and sand therapy.

Art Therapy facilitates positive change by involving in the creation of something- productivity as an achievement in depression. Art Therapy can also be used as a distraction in obsessive compulsive behaviors shifting the focus away from the obsessive compulsive behavior.

Art Therapy can also help with the ventilation of emotions that are difficult to express using words especially in conditions of anxiety, abuse, or anger/acting out in children as well as in adults.

Art Therapy thus allows an individual to get in touch with their feelings that they find difficult to express otherwise.

Art Therapy modifies the physiology and structure of the brain and leads to a more flexible, adaptable individual. The therapy works with multiple senses (vision, touch, smell, hearing) in addition to muscle movements and social interactions with others. Art Therapy can thus help to heal an individual mentally, emotionally, and physically while they build skills to cope with the pressures of life.

At our center, Manasvin’s Center for Marital and Family Therapy, we use art therapy effectively as a psychological healing method.

We have an artist (trained from Shantiniketan) who works individually and through group sessions. Art Therapy sessions are customized to the needs of each client based on inputs from a trained clinical psychologist and includes visual arts (painting, drawing, sketching) and expressive arts like Music Therapy (Guitar, Flute), Work with Clay, Sand Therapy, Role Plays, Poetry and Story writing and telling sessions.  


Is School sufficient to meet the learning needs of our children?

With wider choices now available for schooling of our children,a possible lack of clarity is developing in parents as to the right choice of school for their children. The search includes affordability of fee to an individual opinion of what purpose a school should meet. More wider choices of schools means more options to choose from and more schools that are better or more worse.

Parents are the best persons to choose for their children, but are they able to do the best? Some of us go by opinions of our friends/families, some feel more strict discipline at school is much better for children, some focus on academics and some on sports or extracurricular activities. Overall, everyone tries to make a decision with a focus on what is good for the future of their children. But do we ever look closely at or sensitively at our own children’s needs in terms of how our child is same or different from rest of the them? Or if placing a child in a particular school is helping or harming our children? Does the infrastructure- big building & large school grounds, digital classrooms reward or intimidate your child? It’s time for parents to think rather seriously as to what is a right choice of school for our children’s long term growth!

We as parents have to exercise the right choice if we believe learning is a life long purpose/process than restricting it to a career for survival or to develop a meaningful occupation.How many of us adults are convinced that what we learnt as kids is of use to us now for our personal or professional growth or for identity/survival purpose? We are in such a rush that our children has to meet our foregone dreams or decide their career path by 16 or 17 years or much earlier before their 10th birthday. We want to just fit our kids to an ever changing society or help them to somehow adjust to harsh realities of life, like more money, more fame, high social status and a better life without understanding the needs or pace at which the child wishes to develop. How many of us think that playing is necessary for child’s personality growth? Do we have a value system for ourselves as a family? Does our value system evolve with time or does it remain stable? Does it change as per our view at different levels in our life’s path? More questions often lead to better search or more confusion. Do we feel is it necessary to spend time so seriously when we have so many choice of schools available?

Irrespective of above questions,as parents we have responsibility to provide / expose our children to a wider system of learning.That cannot be possible in one day or one year.Listening to our children,observing their behavior or rather taking time for our children by meaningfully interacting with them will provide opportunity to question and find answers.It gives solutions to much more questions than that posed in above paragraphs.School is just one system in the process of learning but currently considered the most powerful system as it occupies /shapes our children’s lives in their rapid growing years.This is the time to sow more meaningful seeds in their tender minds.If we stop looking at academic achievement alone as the goal & expose our children to more wider areas of learning such as  less competitive sports & games to promote their physical growth needs,field trips/family tours focussed  towards natural animal/wild life exposure,(which kids can relate better), by introducing informal systems of learning , it may help to form firm basis to sciences in a practical sense. Hearing children relate their daily experiences of  routine  spent at school gives an idea of their experiences with peers, teachers &the kind of environment they are exposed & how much positive or negative experience added in their lives & how much meaningful learning happening  rather than judging them based on their progress report. Exposing children to different environments helps them & parents to figure out regarding their areas of interest such as sports,arts,music etc.This further helps  to plan right path for them.It’s not necessary to panic if child takes time to explore & decide where & what is their choice or area of interest.Inspite of our good intentions to give our children the best,if we cannot relate to them at their level of communication,our intentions may not be productive.Forcing kids to take our choices make them more dependent on us and lead to a situation where they fail to exercise their potential.A system of education that gives an impression of failure in academics is only damaging a child’s personality even before it is starting to unfold.

There is sensible need for parents to take time and think seriously about what is the best learning for a life time for their child. This has to be an individual decision that considers the individual child rather than rushing to conclusions that has effects for a life time.

Help children by introducing them to a wider world of learning not restricted to a formal classroom.

Rearing Children- A Challenge or Pleasant experience?

With increased complexity of our life styles and increased orientation towards careers, we hardly take quality time for raising a child. Rather, we focus more on having them run with us from morning till bed time. As parents, we have our busy careers or schedules where as our kids are competing equally with us with 7 am to 7 pm school hours and after school activities. On the weekends, we are tired and drained from the week, while our kids are either busy with coachings or extracurricular activities. Then the only time spent together (leave alone teaching/disciplining a child) would be in front of TV or watching movie or eating out in a restaurant. This is the story of almost all nuclear families these days.

When these kind of routines are considered as normal to our family environments, what about families where there is a special child or a child with special needs to care for? What if there is a child or another family member with a medical illness to care for? The flooding of the market with newer gadgets and our need to replace our emotional support with materialistic needs, expensive school admissions, expensive vacations are additional aspects that look exciting but need to be carefully considered for their benefits or potential harm. The grass on the other side is not always greener. Children spend a lot of time playing with their gadgets (play stations, computer games etc) and often at the cost of their sleep and food. Eating healthy food at appropriate times takes a backseat with “snacking” the preferred food. Comparisons with the peer group abound on who has the most material things, low tolerance and high frustration levels, a reducing respect for human and emotional relationships, and an attitude of “It is alright, what is the big deal?” are more common these days.

As adults, are we able to identify the early signs of diversion from the education they are supposed to receive? Are we able to take time to work on these possible issues before they become more problematic? Are we able to be firm or discipline or direct the child towards an acceptable path? Or do we end up crying over spilt milk while consistently refusing to see the signs of impending trouble? Do we assuage our feelings of guilt or convenience by giving more materialistic stuff at our children that sort of drives them farther and farther away?

Anything that is recognized early can be worked at systematically. What should we focus on?

  1. Healthy eating and sleep habits is of prime importance. Starting earlier is better. Help yourr child to eat and sleep at the right times. Teach the importance of eating all the food on the plate.
  2. Boundaries with regard to their behavior of exploration and experimentation. A young child of 2-3 years will try to follow or model their parents. As an adult, you need to work at yourrself to improve them. Your ability to be sensitive, flexible and thoughtful in human interactions will be picked up by the children. Your behavior towards your fellow human beings and animals, use of material, the limits of acceptability, empathy, leadership and positive authority are important. Setting boundaries need not always be restrictive or can be a positive enriching experience.
  3. Be organized and use material appropriately. Stop blackmailing your child by repeatedly reminding them of how much you sacrificed for them or how much effort you put for them. Instead, focus on reinforcing the positive actions of the child that has helped earn your respect and rewards for the child. Set a limit for what material you provide to your child, try to provide material that can be useful and constructive. Do not hesitate to discuss these with your children or to explain your choices to them. Do not hesitate to listen to them.
  4. Let us not carry our baggage to our children. How your parents treated you is not necessarily the basis for how you treat your child. Your child is an individual in his/her own right. Changing societal values over time have to be taken into consideration. What was considered routine decades ago may not be considered appropriate now. You need not focus on fulfilling your dreams or desires through your child. Learn to understand your child and see them as an individual in their own right.
  5. Focus on education. It is important to understand as a parent that the purpose of education is not just to earn money or fame but to develop into a thoughtful sensitive fair human being. The focus on investing or spending on materialistic things should instead be shifted into providing the child skills to take independent ethical decisions. Help the child to grow continuously and develop the skills to learn on their own making informed choices.
  6. Focus on values/ethics. The values that are important as an individual, learning to respect all schools of thought, understanding the reasoning behind rituals such that rituals are not just routine are all important aspects. Some of these are imbibed, some have to be reinforced. Your child observes keenly the values and ethics you practice. You have to work on yourself to improve them.


This is an incomplete list but brings about the need to first look at ourselves as a parent before we try to chaange our children. The challenge can be pleasant and something that can be worked together with the child(ren) building long lasting bonds. We, as parents, have to be open to growing and learning with our children.