Child art therapy involves different practices in education, rehabilitation and psychotherapy. A successful field today where art is incorporated into the psychotherapy, child art therapy is used as a means for children and their art therapist to not only visual the unconscious but also to eventually recognize it on a conscious level. Used to promote healing, art on a therapeutic level is used in many settings to benefit the child.
One of these major settings involve the school, where the art therapist helps the child with internal conflicts, using the child’s artwork to put into some form of positive action a change within. Child art therapy does not involve the art therapist alone, but the teaching and counseling staff in addition to the child’s parents and family members.
Many times, the students who are involved within the art therapy setting are special education students who are having difficulty. In this case, the child art therapy is used for conditions such as learning disabilities, emotional problems and disturbances, behavior disorders, and even physical handicaps that are the result of impaired gross and fine mother control.
Child art therapy needs a Masters level in education, which would be able to recognize the six stages of development in children’s drawings in addition to being able to connect intellectual growth in the child, their psychosocial stages of development, and this correspondence to the six stages of development in the child’s drawings. These six stages fall within certain age groups:
The Scribble Stage – occurs 18 months to two years of age
This age demonstrates the ability to be aware of patterns, utilizing hand-eye coordination.
The Pre-Schematic Stage – occurs four to seven years
The child may draw human figures with circles,
and two dangling lines for legs.
The Schematic Stage -occurs seven to nine years
The characteristics of this age group show what the child is thinking vs. what they are actually seeing.
The Dawning Realism – occurs nine or two years
Demonstrating how things “really look” become important, which causes excessive frustration
When using child art therapy, the child is usually given five or six art directions by the art therapist. They will represent the child’s perception of themselves, their family, their school, or any aspect of their environment. When this is done, they will be evaluated by the art therapist in addition to looking at the child’s academic history, their personal development, and their family. Many things need to be evaluated–the child’s culture, their home life, or their financial situation, as drawings differ across the spectrum. One thing that has been noticed is when learning disabled children are found to have low intelligence measurements on standardized tests, they are significantly more advanced in creative and visual intelligence. A change such as adding a visual component may be needed to enhance their learning.