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To better understand the use of art therapy with an adolescent, it is important to understand the basic developmental process of adolescence. At puberty, the adolescent not only experiences physical changes, but intrapsychic changes occur as well. Turning away from the protective nest of parental attachments, with no substitute attachments in place; compounded by a confusion about their sexual feelings, the adolescent can feel self absorbed and isolated. Their concern now becomes their perception of themselves and how they appear to others. This struggle of identity and self-expression is often accomplished through experimentation and rebelliousness. They test themselves and others in an attempt to discover who they are individually and where they fit in society.

With this constant introspective attention to self and the adolescents need for self expression and creativity, art therapy is in a unique position of encouraging communication, as the adolescents developmentally appropriate defences can often block insight-oriented verbal psychotherapy. With their propensity to creative ways of exploring and experimenting with identity concerns, creativity can be viewed as a requisite for emotional maturation. For an adolescent who may need extra support in this process, art therapy can be an excellent potential healing agent


a picture of Janice created by a pre-adolescent girl