Why do creative therapies for teens work?

Why do creative therapies for teens work?

By Jesaca Lepper, MFT  – Ventura PHP/IOP

Creative therapies are very important and valuable for adolescent treatment therapy. Adolescents often benefit from different treatment modalities that do not only focus on cognitive interventions and strictly “talk therapy.” Adolescent brains are still growing and sometimes experiences can unlock and express deeper feelings.

There are many artistic modalities that can be used to allow adolescents to express their true selves, both in therapy and in their everyday lives. Specifically, the arts, such as drawing, painting, coloring, music and writing can be helpful part of the expressive process.

Music is a very important part of many adolescent lives. It distinguishes what social groups go together and helps many maturing teens express what they feel. In therapy, music can provide a way for therapists to establish a strong relationship with their clients. Music helps adolescents work collectively or express different emotions and aspects of themselves that might have difficulty expressing using traditional talk therapy methods. Some of the different music interventions that can be incorporated into therapy include:

  • Having the group work on learning a song that they can play together;
  • Having the group write a song that they then perform and record; or
  • Having the client create a playlist that represents a specific period in their life.  

Creative therapy techniques can also be used in family therapy to assist all family members in having an equal voice in the session. One activity that is helpful for families that have younger children is called “The Land of No Rules.” The family is divided into smaller groups to facilitate every member of the family being able to express their views of the family rules. They are asked to draw a picture of a place where there are no rules and then are asked to share what happens in that land with the rest of the family. The groups are then asked to create a drawing of the land with important rules and explain what those rules are and how they provide safety and structure to the family. This is a great out-of-the-box thinking exercise that allows a family to explore their rules and support a positive parent-child relationship. It also assists with creative, collaborative problem solving for the family.

There are many different creative therapies that can be used to assist adolescents and their families in understanding the dynamics that are present in their relationships. Creative therapies help clients connect with their therapists and families in new and different ways that will help them manage their mental health issues.

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