Art therapy: giving voice to their grief | Dr. David Sortino
Important message as we move forward as a nation after several tragedies in December:
Counselors and psychologists must now address an unspeakable tragedy and begin the healing process with the Newtown, Conn. children. Experienced counselors and psychologists will do their best to heal but their role will be extremely difficult.
One of the many problems they face will be the addressing of the different emotional and/or cognitive developmental levels of the children they counsel. That is, young children have different levels in how they express themselves emotionally and cognitively, particularly in how they deal with grief and death. Some children are more verbal and feel comfortable speaking to adults about grief, while others are non-verbal and will internalize their grief.
The key factor in the success of the counseling is the approach the counselor uses to address the children’s pain or grief.
For example, most experienced counselors understand these differences, which is why they use different modes of therapy to reach individuals, especially young children dealing with death. Fortunately, many grief counselors use the expressive arts, such as art therapy as their main strategy for helping children deal with the often-unspeakable thoughts and/or emotions associated with death.
According to art therapist Mary Gambarony of the Riverview Medical Center: “whether it’s drawing, painting, sculpture or any other medium, it’s always been a powerful way to express emotions without words. It allows children to take the pain and to take the sadness, take the frustration, take the questions, and put it outside of themselves and that’s very healing in itself to get it out of you, and put it outside of themselves and that’s very healing in itself to get it out of you, put it on something objective in front of you and be able to look at it. “ She adds, regardless of its presentation, they‘re all symbols of loss and pain that children often have trouble expressing. The art gives voice to their grief…
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