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Between the Lines

Kim Anderson, MSW, LCSW, ATR-BC

What Grown-Ups Need to Know About Art Therapy for Kids

I truly enjoy working with kids. I did so early in my career as a family and child therapist and clinical social worker and again later, when I was finishing my training as an expressive arts psychotherapist. I continued working with kids until long after I was board certified as a registered art therapist.

One of the most challenging things for me about working with kids was their dependency – and therefore my clinical dependency – upon the grown-ups in their lives. Whether it was parents, grandparents, teachers, or foster care or case workers, grown-ups need to be involved in therapy for kids. It is difficult enough for grown-ups to understand the subtle benefits of child therapy, but it is sometimes even more difficult for them to understand art-making as a treatment modality and the art itself as a symbolic extension of the child or adolescent.

I am putting the final touches on a book that started out as a flyer I developed several years ago and included in the intake package when I would begin work with a new child client. It seemed useful and I began to share it with colleagues who also seemed to find it useful. I was encouraged to expand the content and include some examples that might illustrate the suggestions I made.

What Grown-Ups Need to Know About Art Therapy for Kids is not intended to be a comprehensive textbook based in scholarly research but a readable and informed guidebook for any adult who is interested in supporting a child who is engaged in art therapy or perhaps even art-making in general. Many of the suggestions outlined may be used to encourage children’s natural creativity and avoid unintentional interruption of talents, skills, and curiosities.

Although I had always invited creativity and the use of art-making in my practice, I decided to become trained as an art therapist because I wanted to be able to more completely appreciate and acknowledge the deep work embedded in the process of creating art. I also wanted to be able to be more informed in my responses in order to better guide my clients toward health and healing. Similarly, this book sets out to inform grown-ups about the process and promise of art therapy for kids and guide them in the support of their child’s wellness.

I am thankful for the educators, parents, grandparents, and foster parents who facilitated the artwork for this project. I am especially grateful to all of the young artists who agreed to illustrate the pages with their bright visions and the grown-ups in who understood the importance. The book should be available in December through my website and on Amazon.

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