Expressive Arts Therapy Program Description
ATC provides a yearlong in-school art therapy program designed to reach students who have limited or no access to mental health care. Licensed and board certified art therapists work with children and teenagers to develop self-awareness and self-management skills by integrating art and creativity with therapy. Students are seen in a group format for one hour weekly with art therapists who work with approximately 60 to 80 students a day at each school. Students struggling with more serious issues or in need of more attention are seen on an individual basis, either in addition to a group or instead of a group format.
Art therapy groups follow a weekly curriculum designed and empirically proven to help students with cooperation, participation, attachment, trust, empathy, anger management, problem solving and a myriad of other issues. Weekly art directives and group discussions teach the skills and emotional tools necessary for the students to experience success in school and life.
In addition to the structured weekly curriculum, an additional emphasis is placed on (a) interfacing with the teachers to provide support and resources to enable them to deal more effectively with their students and (b) providing support to the individual students in communicating effectively with their teachers. As a result teachers become less frustrated and students learn to acquire skills in successfully negotiating with adults/authority figures.
Teacher Support Program
ATC also provides a 34-week training and support curriculum for school staff. The goal of this program is to provide support for teachers by giving them (1) a forum to share ideas and voice their concerns and (2) expressive arts therapy resources that they can develop and use in the classroom. ATC art therapists will facilitate this program that will be open to all KIPP teachers and administrators.
Two primary therapeutic goals of the ATC program are 1) To encourage the development of social interest (caring for self and others) in order to foster respectful, supportive and positive relationships; and 2) To model and teach useful emotional regulation, anger management and coping skills for real-life problems.
The ATC program curriculum involves art interventions designed to meet these goals and to encourage group identity, group cohesion, and cooperation. The following text and student art images provide examples of art interventions used in the ATC art therapy program.
The Masking Emotions art intervention uses the mask as a metaphor for the emotions that individuals choose to hide from others. Before making art, ATC therapists and students engage in a group discussion about feelings, particularly those we choose to hide or mask from others. After identifying specific emotions, the students create masks that represent the feelings that they keep hidden. In the safety of the group therapy setting, the students develop emotional awareness and trust for one another. They find that they are not alone and learn to accept their feelings, instead of seeing them as bad.
In the Feeling Sculptures art intervention, ATC therapists ask each student to think of a certain feeling and to convey it no through words but by creating a sculpture. When the sculptures are complete, each group member goes from one sculpture to the next and tries to identify the feeling in the forms created by their peers. During the discussion that follows, the group members talk about how feelings can take a form that others can recognize and how empathy develops from recognizing and understanding others’ emotions. This experiential art helps students to gain awareness of their emotions, to trust others in the group with their feelings, and to develop respect and empathy for other peoples’ emotions and experiences.
Another directive to encourage personal awareness among older students asks them to Draw a Road that represents themselves and/or their life experience. ATC therapists pose thought provoking questions to the students, such as What is the road made of? What is alongside the road? Where is the road coming from and where is it going? After creating their drawings, the students are invited to share their personal meaning behind their work and how it represents their past experiences, present emotional state, and future goals. The road’s metaphoric meaning gives the ATC therapists useful information that can be helpful in providing support and evaluation. Reflecting on their road drawings helps the students to assess their ability to make changes, shift negative behaviors and thoughts, and find hope for the future.