Last week, the Duchess of Cambridge unfortunately had to miss an event at The Art Room, one of her patronages. The event was to mark the opening of the Clore Art Room at Barlby Primary School in London and Kate sent a lovely note to the organization, apologizing for her absence due to continued illness and expressing her support for the wonderful work this organization does.
The Art Room is a charitable organization that provides art therapy to disadvantaged and special needs children ages 5- 16. There are currently nine Art Rooms in the United Kingdom, all of which operate in partnership with local schools. The goals of the Art Room program are to improve the self-esteem, self-confidence, and independence of children. In addition to establishing and running the Art Rooms, the charity also provides training and workshops in their methodology for school-based professionals who work with young children.
Art has a long and valuable history as a therapeutic method, although it wasn’t crafted solidified into is own branch of therapy until approximately 70 years ago. Art has been integrated in many different therapeutic approaches, such as psychoanalysis, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and family therapy, which speaks to the versatility of the method. The essence of art therapy is the idea that psychological healing results from working through problems through different artistic mediums in partnership with an experienced therapist.
While the typical therapy session generally requires verbal dialogue between a therapist and a client/patient, this can be very difficult (if not impossible) for some children and adults. Art therapy offers a way to explore the thoughts and feelings of a client in a non-verbal, non-threatening, and non-judgmental way. Additionally, this kind of therapy is cooperative, in that the patient can work on their art either by themselves or with a partner in their therapist. Art as therapy can also easily transition to the home, so that the techniques discussed and practiced in art therapy sessions can easily be practiced and enjoyed at home.
Art therapy is a wonderful choice for young children, who often struggle to put their feelings and experiences into words. It is also very beneficial for children and adults on the autistic spectrum, those who are intellectually disabled, or those with selective mutism (who often are unable to speak to strangers or in social settings outside of the home). Further, it can help children and adults with speech difficulties, such as stuttering or lisping, who feel uncomfortable and inhibit their speech.
Most notably, I have found art therapy to be extremely useful when working with patients who have suffered a traumatic event. Part of the difficulty in coming to terms with trauma is how impossible it can be to speak about the horror, shock, and fear that was experienced. Sometimes, the words for such experiences simply do not exist. Art therapy provides a safe and silent way to “talk about” such experiences without having to use words. Instead, colors and shapes become the language that is used. It is the definition of a picture being worth “a thousand words!”
I am thankful to Kate for drawing awareness to such a special organization that provides incredible services to children in great need. I look forward to her continued involvement in their work!
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