10 Art Therapy Activities for Teenagers That Relieve Stress, Boost Self-Esteem and Improve Communication

Art therapy activities for teenagers include more than just drawing and painting. Try these ten activities to help your teen clients express themselves.

Art therapy activities for teenagers include more than just drawing and painting

“Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.” —Stephen Sondheim

You love working with kids and teens, but sometimes, getting them to open up can be, shall we say, difficult. Over time, you’ve found that incorporating hands-on treatment methods into your therapy sessions makes teens feel more comfortable. However, they only want to do so much painting and drawing before they’re bored. Boost your arsenal of art therapy activities for teenagers in your practice, by adding more art, music, and crafting into your sessions.

10 art therapy activities for teens in your practice

1. Collage

Don’t ever toss another waiting room magazine again. Save them to use for collaging with your teen clients. Collage art can take many forms. Some will include motivational words and positive quotes. Others can be visual representations of how they feel in the present, or how they’d like to feel in the future. They can even be simple cutouts of pictures they enjoy that help to make them feel better. For even more options, save newspapers, advertisements, or any other paper products you’d recycle.

2. Deface the face

Teens are known for their artistic doodling on places they shouldn’t be defacing, such as their desks in school or the faces of the figures in their history books. Embrace their interest in altering art during counseling. Provide your teen attendees with a full-page sheet of a person’s face and give them pens, markers, crayons to create an updated look. Take the “artwork” a step further by asking your client to describe why they made the choices they did. Did they make a happy-looking person look angry? Why?

3. Designing dream catchers

Are your clients experiencing sleep disturbances? If so, let them create a dream catcher to place above their bed. Explain the meaning behind dream catchers, and let the teenager design it with any trinkets or materials, such as feathers or charms, that are important to them.

4. Interpretations

Show your teen client pictures of people interacting or on their own. Make sure these images are expressive of many different emotions. Ask your client to describe what’s happening in the picture, or if the person in the photo is alone, what he or she may be thinking or feeling. How the teen interprets the photos may give you insight into their way of thinking.

5. Journaling

Getting thoughts onto paper will help your teenage client process their feelings. While some may take to drawing or collaging, others may need words to express their ideas. There are many different ways to journal. They can list items they’re grateful for, observations on the changes in their feelings, or ways to practice self-care. If your teenage clients take to journaling, suggest they try their hand at poetry or writing creative nonfiction.

6. Mask making

Your clients can’t see their own faces, but creating a mask gives them a chance to see the “face” for themselves. Have the teen make two masks. The first should show how they feel they present themselves to the world. The second should be how they actually feel inside. Spend a session talking about the differences between the two.

7. Photograph it

According to the PewResearchCenter, 73% of teens have access to a smartphone. Take advantage of that by asking them to photograph their environment. What’s important to them? What images make them feel safe, anxious, happy, or alone? Talk about the pictures and why they evoke the feelings they do. If your client enjoys photography, consider giving them a few words‚—such as “home,” “mentor,” or “calm”—each week at the end of the session, so they can come prepared with pictures that represent those words for the following week.

8. Be the D.J.

Music plays a significant role in art therapy. Invite your clients to come prepared to a session with a soundtrack of songs that are important to them. What’s more important to them, the lyrics or the sounds? If music is helpful, create a theme for each week, such as stress-reducing songs or music to meditate to, and ask your clients to share their playlists.

9. Puppet play

If you need your teen clients to open up, but they’re mostly tight-lipped, make puppets together. All you need are a few paper bags and some crafting items (think puffy paint, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and more). This technique works especially well in the group setting, as the teens will compete against each other to make the best-looking puppet. If necessary, your clients can use the puppets to talk for them.

10. Sculpting

There are many materials teens can use to build their sculptures, such as clay, tin foil, pipe cleaners—really, just about anything works! By sculpting, your clients are creating something that didn’t exist a moment before. They have the power to wield ordinary objects into whatever their imagination allows. To challenge them even more, require they use just one material at a time.

With these ten art therapy activities for teenagers, you’re going to have your hands full (and maybe even covered in sparkles or paint!). So, take some of the stress off yourself and invest in a practice management system that can help you run your business while you’re in session. SimplePractice can help your billing, claim filing, and more. Try us free for 30 days.

Do you have some art therapy activities for teenagers or adults you can add to the list? Share your tips in the comments.

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